/Troy volleyball now has the best season in Division I program history

Troy volleyball now has the best season in Division I program history

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Wally Pendergrass

Staff Writer 

The Trojan volleyball team continued its amazing start to the 2014 season with a 3-0 record in the Trojan Invitational and was the tournament champion. The team’s 8-1 season is now the best in the program’s Division I history since 1993.

The Trojans hosted the tournament Sept. 4-5, with the Mercer Bears, Alabama A&M Bulldogs and Jacksonville State Gamecocks participating in the event.

The Trojans are now 8-1 and off to the best start ever under head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick.

“We’ve battled, playing eight matches in seven days,” Kirkpatrick said. “We build a schedule for a reason, to test their limits and make them mentally strong, and they’ve really had a great week and I couldn’t be more proud.”

The Trojans had four players on the All-Tournament Team, including tournament MVP junior outside hitter Blair Winston.

Winston was joined by fellow junior middle hitter Darby Griff and sophomores Kiah Cheatham, middle hitter, and Symone Shaw, outside hitter, on the All-Tournament Team from Troy.

The Trojans opened the tournament with a five-set, two-hour nail-bitter against Mercer. The first set of the match lasted 64 points, with the Trojans finally taking the set 33-31. After taking the second set 25-15, the Trojans headed into halftime with a commanding 2-0 lead.

The Bears responded with two close set wins in the third and fourth sets, 25-23 and 25-21, respectively, to tie the match at 2-2.

The Trojans dug deep as they pulled out a fifth set win 15-9 to secure the first match 3-2.

Shaw led the team with 16 kills, while Griff had the highest attack percentage with a .318. Junior setter Tineille Waggoner had 56 assists and three service aces while junior libero Ali Dowdell led the team with 21 digs.

“It was a good test of composure,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve worked on our mental toughness quite a bit this season. Luckily, everything we’ve been working on in practice helped us make some plays in the end and win in five.”

Following the five-set thriller, the Trojans took a dominating 3-0 win over Alabama A&M on Friday morning.

Shaw led the way again with 10 kills, 24 total attacks and an attack percentage of .375.

The Trojans had some freshmen get playing time in the game against the Bulldogs, and they responded well. Freshman setter Reina Terry had 24 assists, while freshman libero/defensive specialist Avalon Nero had four service aces.

In the final game of the tournament, the Trojans faced the Gamecocks, who were also 2-0 in the tournament at the time, setting up a championship match.

The Trojans got off to a quick start, winning the first and second set, 25-13 and 25-17 respectively.

The Gamecocks took the third set 25-19. The fourth set was close for most of the match, with five tied scores and two lead changes, but the Trojans pulled away late and won 25-15 to take the match and the championship 3-1.

Winston led the team in kills with 18 and total attacks with 39. Cheatham had an attack percentage of .526. Waggoner had 42 assists, and Dowdell led the team in digs again with 13.

The Trojans swept the Alabama State Hornets, 3-0, in Montgomery on Tuesday, Sept. 9.  This win was the fifth straight for the Trojans. Winston led the team with 12 kills, and Waggoner had 32 assists.

Troy will travel to Auburn to take part in the Active Ankle Challenge on Sept. 12-13.