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Troy volleyball meets Georgia Southern Today

Special to The Messenger

The Troy volleyball team will open its Sun Belt Conference schedule today when league newcomer Georgia Southern visits Trojan Arena for a 7 p.m. match.

Troy (8-4) has lost three straight matches after an 0-3 weekend at the Active Ankle Challenge. The Trojans fell to tournament host Auburn as well as South Florida and Winthrop. Prior to that, Troy had won five straight matches and were off to an 8-1 start, the best start in the program’s Division I era (1993-present).

The Trojans are led offensively by Blair Winston who is averaging 3.12 kills/set. The junior outside hitter has posted double-digit kills in all but three matches she has played in this season. Fellow junior Darby Griff was selected to the all-tournament team last weekend after averaging a team-best 2.82 kills/set at the Active Ankle Challenge.

Tineille Waggoner is averaging 9.49 assists/set for Troy, the fourth best mark in the Sun Belt as the Trojans are hitting .227 as a team and holding opponents to a .185 attack percentage.

Defensively, Troy is near the top of the Sun Belt at 2.17 blocks/set with Griff (0.95 b/s) and Kiah Cheatham (0.84 b/s) leading the way. Ali Dowdall leads the Trojans with a 3.70 digs/set average.


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Troy volleyball downs Southern Miss in straight sets

Troy didn’t play up to head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick’s expectations, but he will take a win any day of the week.

The Trojans swept Southern Miss, 3-0 (25-19, 27-25, 25-21) in front of a lively crowd at Trojan Arena Monday afternoon. Kirkpatrick said the team played well over the weekend at Clemson, but didn’t bring the same intensity to the court Monday.

“I don’t think we came out and played as well as we did last weekend, but it’s a great win,” head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick said. “We had a great crowd. The crowd was phenomenal. It was very close to last year in the conference tournament and I couldn’t be more thankful for the folks that spent their holiday with us.”

In the third set, Troy jumped out to a big early lead. However, Southern Miss clawed back tie the game late, before the Trojans took home the game and the match with a kill from Kia Cheatham.

Kirkpatrick feels the team showed character in the final set of the sweep.

“Adversity shows character, it doesn’t build it,” Kirkpatrick said. “We have a really nice team. It is the next woman up mentality. Luckily, we were mentally strong enough to pull through and get the win.

Blair Winston led the way for the Trojans with 12 kills, and Preseason All-Sun Belt player Marija Zelenovic dropped in nine kills.

Tineille Waggoner recorded 28 assists as she led the Troy offense to a .236 attack percentage.

“We had some bright spots,” Kirkpatrick said. “But I saw them play last week, and we weren’t anywhere close to that level. We will get back that to level, and the girls are very dedicated to making sure that we are doing what needs to be done to be successful.

Troy welcomes in Mercer, Jacksonville State and Alabama A&M to Trojan Arena later this week for the 2014 Trojan Invitational.

The Trojans open the tournament against Mercer Thursday at 7 p.m.

 


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Troy looking for upset in first round of tourney

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.


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Troy volleyball opens season with loss

The Troy volleyball team opened its 2013 season with a tough, 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 25-13, 22-25, 15-6), loss to Stephen F. Austin on Friday at the Southern Miss Invitational. 

“The loss stings but it was against a good opponent,” Troy head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick said.  “When we played aggressive in our system, we played really well.  The problem was we weren’t always aggressive in our system.

“We’ll make some subtle changes and come out ready to go against too quality opponents tomorrow.”

The Trojans close their portion of the tournament on Saturday when they play host-school Southern Miss at 11 a.m. and Jackson State, an NCAA Tournament team a year ago, at 1:30 p.m.

Against Stephen F. Austin, Courtney Cohen started her senior season by setting a school record with 37 digs in the match, but it wasn’t enough between two 20-game winners from a season ago.  Cohen’s 37 digs broke her own school record of 35 set two seasons ago.

Kayla Pickart led the Trojans offensively with 17 kills and just two errors for a .441 attack percentage.  Newcomer Marija Zelenovic recorded a team-high 18 kills for the Trojans while Preseason All-Sun Belt member Alexandra Alexander posted 40 assists and true freshman Bruna Souza posted 17.

Troy was without fellow Preseason All-Sun Belt selection Blair Winston who led the Trojans with 356 kills a season ago.

The Trojans hit .232 in the match, but Stephen F. Austin recorded a .286 team attack percentage, led by Jill Ivy who had a match-high 25 kills and just four errors for a .488 attack percentage.

After splitting the first four sets, the Trojans fell into an early hole in the fifth set as the Ladyjacks raced out to a 5-0 lead, thanks in large part to two service aces.  Troy couldn’t overcome the early deficit and never got within four points in the deciding set.

Zelenovic and Alexander each recorded double-doubles for the Trojans as the pair posted 12 and 11 digs, respectively.

For more information on Troy Athletics, visit TroyTrojans.com.  Fans can also find Troy on Twitter or Instagram at @TroyAthletics or on Facebook at Facebook.com/TroyAthletics.


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Troy Volleyball Opens Season at Southern Miss Invitational

The Troy volleyball team opens its 2013 season on Friday when it travels to the Southern Miss Invitational. The four-team tournament features three teams that won 20 games a season ago, including the Trojans who are coming off a second place finish in the Sun Belt.

The Trojans will take on Stephen F. Austin on Friday at 3 p.m. before playing Southern Miss and Jackson State on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., respectively.

All three matches will be played at Reed Green Coliseum and live stats for all three will be available through SouthernMiss.com and can also be found at TroyTrojans.com. Live video will not be available.

Troy was picked to finish second again in the Sun Belt by the league’s 10 head coaches and returns eight letterwinners from a 2012 squad that went 21-12 overall and 10-5 in league play.

Senior setter Alexandra Alexander and sophomore outside hitter Blair Winston were each named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt team and are part of four starters that return from last year’s team.

Alexander led the Trojans and the Sun Belt with an 11.20 assists/set average last season during Sun Belt play. She is one of two seniors on the Trojan squad, joining libero Courtney Cohen, who enters the weekend just 210 digs shy of setting the Troy career record.

Cohen posted a school-record 563 digs a season ago and enters the weekend with 1,519 in her career, the fifth most in the Sun Belt’s rally-scoring era.

Troy will face a tough opponent in its first match as Stephen F. Austin returns nine letterwinners from a squad that went 22-12 in 2012. The Ladyjacks were picked to finish third in the Southland this year by the league’s head coaches after finishing fourth a season ago.

Troy is 0-1 against Stephen F. Austin with the lone meeting coming in 2006 on a neutral court in Ruston, La.

Tournament host Southern Miss is coming off of an 8-20 season in 2012 that saw the Golden Eagles finish 10th in Conference USA with a 4-12 league record. Southern Miss returns 11 letterwinners from that team and was picked to finish 11th in 2013.

Troy is 3-3 against Southern Miss with the last meeting coming in 2006. Troy is 1-2 against the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg, including the most recent meeting between the two, a five-set win by Southern Miss.

Jackson State was an NCAA Tournament participant a year ago after going 24-12, including an 8-0 mark in SWAC play. The Lady Tigers return eight letterwinners from that team and have been picked to win the league again this year.

Troy is 3-0 against Jackson State, including a three-game sweep in Troy last season. The Trojans are 2-0 against the Lady Tigers on a neutral court.

After the three matches this weekend, the Trojans return to Troy for their home opener on Monday as Georgia Southern visits Trojan Arena. The Trojans and Eagles will begin their Labor Day matchup at 2 p.m. and the match will mark the Trojans first inside Trojan Arena.

For results and recaps throughout the weekend, visit TroyTrojans.com. Fans can also find Troy on Twitter and Instagram at @TroyAthletics or on Facebook at Facebook.com/TroyAthletics.

Via Troy Athletics


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Troy volleyball begins preperations for 2013 season

The Troy volleyball team held a pair of practices at Trojan Arena on Tuesday as the team prepares for its 2013 campaign set to begin on Aug. 30.

Though the men’s and women’s basketball teams have already played a full slate of game inside the new facility, the upcoming season will be first for the volleyball program.

“It’s a great venue,” Troy head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick said.  “It brings a great atmosphere and gives the girls a chance to play in a state-of-the-art arena with all the bells and whistles.  It’s something that all the athletes here have earned and we’re looking forward to getting our chance out there on the floor.”

Troy finished last season 21-12 overall and a 10-5 mark in Sun Belt play finishing second in the league.

The program won its first ever Sun Belt Conference Championships match last year. This season, the team will host the tournament and is looking to make some noise in conference play once again.

“We just need to keep getting better and it all starts today,” Kirkpatrick said.  “I really like the energy and ball control we’ve had but we just have to keep working for the end of August and our first match.”

Eight letterwinners return for the Trojans this season including Alexandra Alexander, Courtney Cohen and Blair Winston, all of whom have been all-conference selections during their careers.

The Trojans will open their home schedule against future Sun Belt foe Georgia Southern on Sept. 2 at 2 p.m.  The Trojans open their season at the Southern Miss Invitational on Aug. 30.


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Troy volleyball lands former All-American transfer

After losing five seniors, Troy volleyball head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick knew he had some work to do in the offseason. The recruiting trail has been kind to Kirkpatrick and the Trojans as the program picked up its sixth signee on Tuesday in Marija Zelenovic.

Zelenovic, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter from Novi Sad, Serbia, was an All-American at the NAIA level when she played for Lee University in Tennessee.

“She was looking to play at a higher level and we had a home for her,” Kirkpatrick said. “She is a really good player and has experience at the college level.”

As a two-time All-American at Lee, Zelenovic recorded 402 kills last season. Lee finished with a 30-11 record and ranked No. 9 in the NAIA Coaches Top 25 poll.

Zelenovic, who transfers to Troy as a junior, joins Cassie Hendricks and Katie Feemster as Troy’s three 6-foot-3 signees. In the trio, the Trojans get a much-needed boost in height after having just two players on last year’s roster of 6-foot-2 or taller.

“I think its obviously a benefit,” Kirkpatrick said of the addition’s size advantage. “We’re looking for the best players we can find. If they’re 6-3, it helps.”

Troy finished last season 21-12 overall before the youthful Trojans were ousted from the conference tournament in the second round. The season was a historic one for the program. The team’s 10 Sun Belt Conference wins set a school record and completed its first 20-win season in a decade.

The Trojans lost several key members from last year’s squad including four-year starter Devin Von Pingel who set a school record with 303 career blocks. Also gone is Courtney Cohen who set Troy’s single season record with 563 digs.

Losing such talent may worry many coaches but Kirkpatrick feels comfortable with his returning roster.

“We felt really good about the roster last season but if you look at it, we got significant contributions from several freshmen,” he said. “I feel just as confident with our returning roster as I did with last year’s.”

Troy will host the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Tournament as they will play their first season in the new Trojan Arena.

The Trojans begin the regular season in the Southern Miss Invitational on Aug. 30. The team’s first home match is set for Sept. 2 against Georgia Southern.