BY JAKE LOURIM
LAKE ORION — As Troy senior Nicole Hahn went up to try to save a 10th match point for the Colts, the entire gym fell silent. The only sound was Troy coach Vince Muscat’s “Cover her!”
It was too late.
Lake Orion’ Sophie Murdock blocked Troy’s last gasp to hand the Colts their first league loss, 3-2, in OAA Red Division volleyball play.
Lake Orion rallied to win Game 3 (25-20), Game 4 (25-18) and Game 5 (22-20), with the match taking nearly three hours to complete. Troy won both Game 1 (25-19) and Game 2 (25-17).
.After Troy dominated the first two sets, the defending state finalist Dragons slowly climbed back into the contest. They pulled away in the third and fourth sets and looked to have the fifth easily, but the Colts wouldn’t roll over.
When Troy fell behind 14-6, senior Lexie Pullen delivered seven clutch serves, including two aces, to bring the Colts back. Each time she threw the ball up could have been the end of the match.
“I just concentrated and blocked everything out,” Pullen said. “Knowing it was my job, I needed to.”
Many times that’s a lot of pressure, but Pullen said she didn’t feel it. She knew even if it was an easy serve, the Colts would play defense.
Lake Orion coach Ross Talbott was impressed with Troy, which was a member of the Sweet 16 last season.
“Hats off,” said Talbott. “(Troy) played really, really well. Their setter set the right hitters, their hitters were hitting over our block and of course they were hitting around our defense.”
Troy junior Olivia Parks’ kill was the only kill out of the late eight-point streak by the Colts in Game 5. Lake Orion committed three hitting errors and two penalties, one of them for the side-out.
The comeback wasn’t without its tension, however. The Dragons continued to pound Troy, but the Colts’ defense stiffened and didn’t let the ball hit the floor.
“Coming back from 14-7 down just shows the character of this team,” Muscat said. “I told them, ‘If we play can play like that all the time, then there’s not a team in this league that can hang with us.’ I truly believe that.”
After two sets, though, it didn’t look like there’d be a fifth game.
Muscat had talked for two weeks about this road showdown, and his team delivered. The Colts were firing from the get-go, spreading the ball around as they usually rotate to several hitters.
“(We) matched their energy and added some,” Muscat said. “We were hitting the ball well.”
Parks led the team with nine kills, Hahn eight kills and senior Hope Keating kills — all in the first two games.
“We came out how I wanted to,” Muscat said. “I knew they were going to punch back — I knew it wasn’t going to be a three-game match when we won that second game. I’m proud of the girls, especially that third game.”
In the second game, Troy allowed only three service points and made only three errors, two of them service miscues. The Dragons scored 14 of 17 by themselves — Troy wasn’t giving them anything.
Troy took an 11-10 lead in the third game, but then Lake Orion climbed back into the match. The Dragons scored the next five points, forcing a Troy time-out, won the third game 25-20 and the fourth 25-18.
“We were closing our block a lot better the last three sets,” Talbott said. “Our middles were getting to the block, and our right sides were setting the block.”
The home crowd got loud for the fifth set, pacing Lake Orion out to the early lead, but Troy wouldn’t go away.
The Colts lost to Lake Orion in three sets in the regional final last season, but gave them everything they wanted this time.
“We feel so achieved,” Pullen said.
Troy also impressed Talbott.
“They came to play tonight,” Talbott said. “The other teams in the OAA had better watch out. I’ll tell you what: They’re hitters are going to get better, they’ve got an awesome setter and a great coach. They’re going to get better.”
In the end, though, Lake Orion had too much experience. Troy had match points at 16-15, 17-16, 19-18 and 20-19 but ended up with two penalties and allowed a block and a kill.
The Dragons had plenty of girls who had been in that tight situation before from last year’s state tournament.
“They know how to get it done,” Talbott said. “It’s helped tremendously. You can’t coach or teach that kind of experience in game-like situations.”
(Jake Lourim is a senior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)