The red-hot Red Devils volleyball team is the talk of the town these days. A visit to friendly rival Troy on Wednesday will speak volumes about who wins the MVL this season.
Tipp City, OH – Good news travels fast in small towns like Tipp City. But it wasn’t until Abby Hughes and Emily Graham dropped off promotional material at local businesses did they realize the Red Devils’ volleyball team served as poster kids for athletic success.
Hughes and Graham – both seniors on the Tipp volleyball team – delivered posters featuring the team for businesses to display in their windows and on their walls. And Hughes said every place had the same response: “’Wow, that’s so amazing you guys are doing so good.’ That’s cool for us. Everything is more football and now volleyball is stepping in and getting almost the same recognition as football.”
They might surpass them this week … and that’s no knock on the Red Devils’ football team. Tipp meets Troy in a Miami Valley League showdown on Wednesday. Tipp (which hosts Fairborn on Monday) enters the week 18-0 overall and 14-0 in the MVL. Troy (which travels to Sidney on Tuesday) is 16-2 and 13-1.
Barring any upsets Monday or Tuesday, a Tipp victory gives the Red Devils a two-game lead in the Miami Division. A Troy win creates a two-way tie for first.
The I-75 Series … or 25-A Series if you prefer … is more than just a battle for Miami County. It’s a battle for Miami Valley respect. Tipp coach Howard Garcia and Troy coach Michelle Owen know the challenge they face trying to break into the powerhouse discussion along with teams like Beavercreek, Centerville, Lebanon and Northmont in Division I and Kettering Alter and Middletown Bishop Fenwick in D-II.
Tipp, ranked No. 9 in the D-II state poll, already has a three-set victory over Beavercreek this season. Another win against Troy would go a long way in helping with the seeding for the D-II sectional tournament. That’s easier done than handling one of junior Corinn Siefring’s killer spikes kills, though.
The Trojans, unranked in D-I, are the only team to take the Red Devils past three sets this season. Tipp won 25-19, 25-21, 19-25, 23-25, 15-10 on Sept. 4.
“It’s a great challenge. We embrace the challenge,” Garcia said. “It’s a friendly competition. Both teams know each other and are friends. But at the end of the day both teams are defending their school colors. That’s a good thing for volleyball in the area. I think the match we had in our place – with the attendance and the fire and the energy – you don’t see that a lot in high school volleyball. What happened at Tipp that night, that was something special.”
The Red Devils take their game on the road this time. Garcia and his volleyball team anticipates a rollicking response from the Trojans’ student section. Graham hopes Red Devil Nation also shows up loud and proud at the unfriendly confines of Troy’s gym.
“It makes it a little more intimidating. But I have full faith in our student section they are going to make the trip to Troy,” Graham said. “Fingers crossed, so we can get the support, too.”
She’s got plenty of back-up on the court, too.
Siefring leads the team in kills (154) and is a standout at receiving and defending.
Junior outside hitter Alaina Titley came up big against Beavercreek and tied for second in digs (144) and serve receptions (163).
Junior Rachel Wildermuth was leading the state in kill percentage (64.8 percent success rate) and leads the Red Devils in blocks (60) and assists (254) and is second in kills (136).
Senior Olivia Newbourn (72 kills, 25 blocks) and Molly Achterburg (53 kills, 21 blocks) have solidified the middle hitter spot.
Sophomore Ashley Aselage (114 kills) is playing head and shoulders above her competition, literally, with her leaping ability.
Junior Kaitlyn Husic is a standout server off the bench with a team-high 47 aces.
There are no superstars on the team. With a collection of standouts and a team motto of ‘Just Do Your Job,’ the Red Devils continue to shine.
“You can put them all in a box and pick one,” Howard said of who might lead Tipp on a certain night. “They’re doing a great job. Individually their doing their jobs.”
Tipp reached the D-II regional semifinals last seasons before falling to Cincinnati Roger Bacon in four sets. Tipp scrimmaged both Roger Bacon and fellow regional semifinalist Fenwick in the pre-season and did well, Howard said.
Tipp has already met two of its four team goals this season: Be one of the best teams in the area and one of the best teams in the state. The next two are also within reach: Win the MVL and win the D-II state championship.
“This season we have the same dynamic and we’ve been able to build off that from last year,” Newbourn said. “I think we picked up right where we left off. We have more drive to finish it off. … We all do our roles well, but we can also step into other roles need be.”
One disadvantage both Troy and Tipp have against other area teams is scheduling. MVL teams play each team in the conference twice. That allows for just four out of conference matches that can be used to build a resume or schedule a state power for big-game experience. It’s not a knock on the MVL, but the league doesn’t bring the same clout as the GWOC and Greater Catholic League Co-Ed with Roger Bacon, Fenwick, Alter and Chaminade Julienne among others.
“With beating big names like Beavercreek and other schools in the Dayton area … it might make other coaches think ‘Oh, wow this little town like Tipp City is giving us competition,’” Graham said. “It’s pretty neat we’re getting our name out there and people are taking us more seriously than they have in the past.”
Added Howard: “The advantage Roger Bacon and Fenwick will have against us – and I will never deny that – is strength of schedule. They have their feet in the fire every day. That’s a big difference when you’re exposed to that. You’ll be able to handle adversity when it comes to you.”
The Red Devils attempt to that Wednesday at Troy, which is having an excellent season as well behind seniors Morgan Baber, Emmie Jackson, Kate Orban, Carly Pfieffer, Lauren Schmitz and Brianna Slusher. It’s a rivalry, but a friendly one on the volleyball court. Many of Tipp and Troy players are teammates on Junior Olympic teams.
“We’re all actually really close friends,” Hughes said. “It makes it tough to play them. Outside of the court we’re all friends. On the court you want to beat them so bad so that makes it tough.”
“Off the court there are no hard feelings. We know either way we’re going to be friends,” Newbourn said. “But on the court we’re trying to beat each other. That’s the goal. ”