Troy volleyball lost over two sets to Francis Howell on Tuesday, Oct. 1. The first set finished 37-35 and the second set finished 25-21.

The first set was extraordinary from both sides and, as Troy head coach Jessica Wilson said, isn’t the type of set that one sees everyday.

“The first set was the longest a set has ever gone in my coaching career. You could tell both sides were motivated and willing to work to capture the win. But with Howell out of time outs and us having the advantage during most of the overtime, these girls had to dig deep to play because a water break was not happening. Their mindsets were focused and relaxed, which is right where a coach wants their players,” Wilson said, adding that along with being the longest of her career, it was also one of the most memorable. 

“The first set was the most exciting set of my coaching career. Both teams made great defensive plays to keep their team in the match. My girls kept their composure and were able to serve receive with great accuracy, while allowing Sydney (Davis) to distribute the ball to a variety of hitters,” Wilson said.

The match was full of twists and turns as Francis Howell would take the lead, squander it, letting Troy ahead and vice versa.

The match was decided by a somewhat controversial call.

“The call that ended the first match was a tough one,” Wilson said.

Olivia Mennemeyer scrambled towards her own bench to save the ball and keep it in play, leaping into and over chairs past her coaches who were scrambling themselves to get out of her way. At first glance it appeared that she was successful in her efforts to keep the ball in, but the official saw something that the average eye may have missed.

“The First Referee deemed that Olivia’s foot was on the carpet in front of the chairs when she played the ball, ruling that it was a change of playing surface, hence out of bounds. Howell places a carpet under the chairs to protect their floor, unfortunately that ended up costing us that first match. Just an unfortunate situation,” Wilson said.

She added that regardless of that result, she couldn’t be too upset about it, given the circumstance.

“I am nothing but proud of the effort we gave on Tuesday and the improvements we showed. It is always nice to see what you have been working on in practice get executed in a game,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that she had slight concern after losing the first set in such exhilarating fashion, as volleyball, like a lot of sports, can be all about momentum and positive energy.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum. You see it in every level of the sport. That is why when we lost the first set, I was concerned with how the girls would come out for set two,” Wilson said. “They could feel tired, deflated from playing a close set and falling short, or they could use it as determination and continue to focus.” 

But she said that when she went to speak to the team after the first set, there was no pity, no negativity and plenty of determination.

“When I entered the circle before set two, the girls were nothing but positive and talking about the next set, not dwelling on the past,” Wilson said. “As an athlete, you have to focus your attention to the next opportunity pretty fast. You can’t dwell on referee’s calls or mistakes. Before set two, I encouraged them to keep pressing on the block, having quick feet on defense and communicate early. As a coach it is important to keep your kids focused on things they have control over.”

When these two teams met earlier this season, Howell won both sets, the first 25-17 and the second 25-15.

“We improved a lot since we first saw them and it was encouraging to see skills that we have been enforcing in practice come to life in the game against Howell,” Wilson said.

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