By Ryan McCollough
Troy entered the final weekend of play needing a win to get in the Sun Belt Championships. They got it, but the road to the title won’t be easy.
The Trojans enter the tournament as the No. 8-seed, and will face top-seed Western Kentucky in the first round Thursday night at Trojan Arena.
Troy faced Western Kentucky in its final match of the regular season on Sunday, falling in straight sets to the Lady Toppers. The Trojans fell 25-19, 25-8 and 25-11.
Troy head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick said the regular season finale was closer than the scores showed.
“We learned that if we don’t play well, it wont be very pretty,” Kirkpatrick said. “The first game we were actually leading 18-17, and then the wheels fell off. For whatever reason, we never recovered from that. Unfortunately, we didn’t play the way we needed to in game two or three, and the results showed. I know this team is better than what we showed.”
The winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal will meet the winner of No.4 UT Arlington and No. 5 South Alabama in Friday’s semifinal match.
WKU, the Sun Belt’s regular season champion, leads the league in attack percentage and kills. The Lady Toppers have three hitters with attack percentages over .400 while Melanie Stutsman leads the league with an 11.59 assists/set average.
Kirkpatrick said the Tops have one of the best, and most experienced, teams around.
“They are a really good and well coached team, no doubt about it,” Kirkpatrick said. “They have tons of experience on their team with five seniors. They won their first NCAA tournament game last year, so they have a lot of big-game experience. We have to play well or it won’t be good for the good guys.”
Troy finished the regular season 12-20, and won three of its final four matches of the season.
The Trojans will have home court advantage, as the SBC Championships will be played inside state-of-the-art Trojan Arena in Troy.
Kirkpatrick feels the advantage extends to more than the playing venue.
“We get to sleep in our own bed this week,” Kirkpatrick said. “We don’t have to change anything up in order to get ready to play. The girls are excited about it, and we can’t wait to get to Thursday and start competing.”
First serve is set for 7:30 p.m. Students from all Sun Belt schools can attend for Free.
Full tournament passes for adults are $20 while single-day passes are $10. For children age 12 and under, tournament passes are $10 and single-day passes are $5.