/Troy Volleyball shocks Western Kentucky in Sun Belt Tournament but falls to UT Arlington

Troy Volleyball shocks Western Kentucky in Sun Belt Tournament but falls to UT Arlington

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(VIDEO/Caleb Odom) (PHOTOS/Joshua Thurston)

 

By Caleb Odom

 

What do you say about a team like Troy volleyball?

The majority of the season for the Trojans was full of frustration and coming up short.

Troy against Western Kentucky on Thursday, November 21 was a story of two teams going in different directions.

On one side there was Western Kentucky, the perennial Sun Belt powerhouse, with its lofty 27-5 season record against Troy with its dismal 12-20 record entering this opening round game of the Sun Belt Conference Championships.

The Trojans were the No. 8 seed for the tournament while WKU was the No. 1 seed so the common consensus for many attending the match was that Troy would go down in three sets to the Lady Toppers like they always do.

After all, in the history of this Sun Belt matchup, Troy had only taken one set from the Hilltoppers with that lone set coming in 2007.

With those kind of numbers anyone would have writen off an irrelevant team like the Trojans who fell from second in the conference last year with a 21-12 record to being one loss away from finishing the 2013 season with a reverse 12-21 record if the team couldn’t beat WKU.

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This story is reminiscent of the 2004 Boston Red Sox who were down three games to none to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series before winning the rest of its games en route to taking the World Series.

Talking to Troy volleyball head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick hours before the match, he sounded like a man who was coaching a team far from defeated.

I thought to myself about how much this would mean if Troy found some way to beat Western Kentucky.

While South Alabama was playing UT Arlington in the 5 p.m. match, Western Kentucky was sitting in the arena together with their black warm up shirts bearing the confident yet effective WKU across their chests.

As I looked over at that team that had beat Troy for so long I just wondered if there was any way the Trojans could do the unthinkable.

As the match was close to beginning, Troy students began to fill the stands in Trojan Arena.

Everyone was there. Football, basketball, soccer players, fraternities and all of them were cheering for Troy.

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Once the first set began it was apparent that the fans were going to be loud throughout the entire match and the Trojans had come to play.

Every point the Trojans won, the crowd exploded with cheers.

So when Troy won the first set 26-24, the Trojans had a stunned the Lady Hilltoppers right where they wanted them.

The second set fueled Troy’s already arena-sized amount of momentum as Western Kentucky looked dazed on the court falling 27-25.

Needing just one set to clinch the unthinkable sweep and the opportunity to play on Friday night, Trojans put everything on the line as they battled WKU to the wire.

Late in the third set, a ball hit by Western Kentucky ricocheted off of a Trojan and straight towards the scorers’ table.

Senior setter Alexandra Alexander bolted fearlessly after the sinking ball reaching it for the save and slamming into the scorer’s table.

As the crowd gasped at Alexander’s impact the ball flew straight to defensive specialist Kelley Curran who lifted the ball back Western Kentucky’s way leading to a valuable point.

With the score tied at 26-26, Curran served for Troy with the screaming crowd all on its feet.

The junior defensive specialist served the ball to Western Kentucky and the Hilltoppers hit a ball that was just out of play to give the Trojans a slim 27-26 advantage.

The final point for Troy was won off of huge digs by Marija Zelenovic and senior libero Courtney Cohen whose final dig of the match was set up by Alexander for a match-winning Zelenovic kill.

Chaos ensued as fans rushed the court to celebrate with the team who had just pulled off the remarkable upset.

Junior outside hitter Kayla Pickart finished the match with 13 kills while Alexander had 37 assists.

Cohen had a team-high 12 digs and Darby Griff notched 7 blocks in the win.

The match on Saturday against UT Arlington was a five-set shootout that in the end, Troy lost 3-2.

The Trojans came out strong in the first set winning 25-21 but the Mavericks rallied in the second set with a 25-21 set win of their own.

The third set went to UT Arlington as Troy got out of rhythm and lost 25-15.

The Trojans rose up and took the fourth set 25-18 and forced the critical fifth and final set.

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One of the more memorable sets this season, the fifth set was a back and forth affair that UT Arlington eventually took 22-20 to win the match.

This thrilling match was the last for seniors Alexander and Cohen who helped Troy go down fighting till the very end.

The video is of Troy beating WKU and the celebration afterwards.

Coach Kirkpatrick showed this video to his team before the UT Arlington match.

 

 

As the semester comes to a close, the Trojan volleyball team was able to give Troy students something to believe in as it defeated the Lady Hilltoppers and rallied hard against UT Arlington. It’s that belief and determination that will surely carry the Trojans into the 2014 season.