By Josh Brown
TROY — After falling in a back-and-forth opening set, the Troy volleyball team had a golden opportunity to shift momentum their way in the middle of the second set.
But like those other chances in the first set, the Trojans couldn’t make it happen — and Miami East took advantage.
The Vikings (2-2) made plays late and took advantage of six Troy service errors to win the first set 30-28, but Troy appeared to tie the score at 16-16 in the second when a net call awarded the point to the Vikings instead. Miami East went on to win that set 25-20, then Kyndall Hellyer served the Vikings out to a 13-0 lead in the third as East closed out the sweep with a 25-13 win Saturday at the Trojan Activities Center.
And in a quality matchup between last year’s Division I district runner-up in Troy and a returning D-III state semifinalist in Miami East, one play truly could make the difference.
East had built a 16-11 lead in the second when the Trojans (2-1) came storming back, and a big block by Miranda Silcott on a shot by Jonni Parker — who led the Vikings with 22 kills on the day — cut the lead to one at 16-15 and forced a Miami East timeout. After play resumed, Troy’s Katie DeMeo seemed to tie the set with a big kill, but she was ruled in the net and the point was awarded to the Vikings. From there, East built a 19-15 lead and finished the set — and the rest of the match — strong.
“That call seemed to take all the wind out of their sails, because they were pushing, pushing, pushing,” Miami East coach Dan Peterson said. “Up one, we called that timeout for a purpose. We called that to let them know we were still ahead and that’s why we build leads, for stuff like this. We called that timeout, had a call go our way, and we finished it like we need to. It was a good response from us.”
“We had really chipped away at their lead, and they called Katie in the net on that play,” Troy coach Michelle Owen said. “They said she caught it on her finger. Obviously, that would have been a momentum change. That was tough, that was a tough call — but tough calls happen, and we just didn’t rebound well from that situation. We didn’t get ourselves back in system enough to get back in control. Other than that run, we never got that second run put together and ended up losing that set by five.”
The tough play carried over from the first set, where neither team led by more than five. The Vikings built a 7-3 lead on a series of kills and blocks by Parker, but Troy later responded with a 5-0 run served up by Kearston Riley, with one ace by her and a pair of kills by Gabbi Johnson, to put Troy up 12-9. The lead grew as big as 15-10 before the Vikings fought back, and a run of four straight aces by Parker gave East a 21-19 lead.
The Vikings led 25-24 after a kill by Parker, but a Payton Riley kill kept Troy alive. East got the advantage four times in a row after that, but each time the Trojans would tie the score until back-to-back kills by Hellyer and Parker finally finished it at 30-28 — with three of the Vikings’ final six points coming on Troy service errors.
“That was three very poorly timed missed serves,” Owen said. Troy had six service errors in the first set. “If you miss long, you at least make them think about it. You’ve got to try to make them earn it. All three of those serves went into the net. When you miss a serve, you don’t even give your system a chance to even work. You’re just giving them a free point.”
“We talked all summer about needing to finish games and finish strong,” Peterson said. “Today was a good indicator of where we are mentally. That first one was a tone-setter for us.”
And after the Vikings took a 2-0 lead, Hellyer served the first 13 points of the third — five of them aces — to stake East out to a 13-0 lead. The Trojans were able to battle back-and-forth the rest of the way, but the lead was simply too big and Parker put the match away with one final kill to complete the sweep.
“We had to burn both of our timeouts. We just couldn’t find a way to put the ball in play,” Owen said of Hellyer’s run to open the third. “It was very frustrating. When you get down 13 to a great team like that … I was happy to get into double digits by the end of the set.”
DeMeo led Troy with nine kills and two blocks, Moeller had seven kills, 13 digs and an ace and Silcott had six kills, two aces, seven digs and a block. Katie Jackson had 26 assists, two digs, a block and an ace, Johnson added four kills and two blocks, Payton Riley had a kill, two digs and a block, Victoria Holland had 10 digs, Alexa Holland had eight digs and an ace, Kearston Riley had an ace and two digs and Caroline Pratt had an ace.
Parker had four aces, 11 assist, nine digs and two blocks to go with her match-high 22 kills, and Hellyer added 12 kills, 15 assists, five aces and seven digs. Reagan Morrett had a kill, three assists and a dig, Jillian Wesco had a kill and two digs, Lydia Conley had a kill, a block and a dig, Taylor McCuistion had three digs, Sophie Jacomet had two assists and six digs and Kailtyn Mack and Gabrielle Hawkins each had a dig.
“I was watching the Troy match from last year with a few of the girls this week, and we just looked slow and unsure of ourselves,” Peterson said. “I think you saw today, especially in Sets 2 and 3, that we’re very confident in what we do. We have a sense of purpose to every movement, and I think it showed today.”
Miami East hosts Ansonia Tuesday to open Cross County Conference play, while Troy returns to Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play Tuesday with a home match against Butler.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.