Troy volleyball continues to roll in Sun Belt Conference play; best start in school history

Published 8:04 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Troy’s 6-2 start in Sun Belt Conference play didn’t come as a surprise to any of its players. They knew and the end of the 2011 volleyball season they would be better in 2012.

The Trojans, who are 15-8 overall, are off to the best start since the program joined the Sun Belt in 2005.

“We have greater talent this year. The freshman that have come in have a lot,” said senior middle hitter Devin Von Pingel. “We’ve really worked well together this year. We have good team chemistry.”

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One of the talented freshman is Blair Winston, who came to Troy from Marietta, Ga.

“Coming in as a freshman I knew I wanted this team to be successful,” Winston said. “I think it has really set the tone for the next four years.”

The team has accomplished more firsts that a good start. It defeated Middle Tennessee for the first time in a conference match back on Sept. 22 and knocked off Arkansas-Little Rock on the road for the first time ever on Oct. 6.

While the team has still yet to master programs like Arkansas State and Western Kentucky, who the Trojans are a combined 0-23 against all-time, their confidence level is growing.

“I think we can definitely win conference,” Von Pingel said. “If we play the game we know how to play and continue what we’re doing now, we can take the conference title.”

Troy head coach Sonny Kirkpatrick is no stranger to turning programs around. As head coach at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania, Kirkpatrick went 0-16 in his first season. Four seasons later, he led the team to the first of three consecutive conference titles.

In 2000, he made the move to Francis Marion where in his sixth year at the helm, his team won a conference championship and made an NCAA playoff appearance. Now in his seventh season at Troy, Kirkpatrick and the Trojans seemed to have turned the corner.

“We played a really competitive spring season and had some good results there,” Kirkpatrick said. “We decided to change everything and in the end reverted back to what we did well last year and it has been working really well.”

Troy hosts South Alabama on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Sartain Hall. Admission to all volleyball matches is free.