Trojan Volleyball plans to continue success in 2022 – The Troy Messenger

As 2022 begins, the Troy Trojans volleyball team is in its third straight season and sixth-year head coach Josh Lauer is looking to keep that momentum going.

Winning a third straight season is an achievement not matched by the Troy volleyball program since the 1990s, and Troy also comes from his second NIVC tournament appearance in the last three years.

Troy started fall training this week, and while volleyball is the only fall sport the NCAA doesn’t allow for team activity in the summer, Lauer has been impressed with how his team has been practicing on their own.

“Our players are here and in the weight room over the summer and they’ve been to the gym on their own and they’ve done a really great job with that. I’m very proud of her,” Lauer said. “We’re just getting back to training from the summer break and it was good to brush off some rust and get back to work. The girls work really hard.”

Middle hitter Jessica Lopresti and the Trojan volleyball team will welcome Samford to a spectacle next Monday at the Trojan Arena. (Photos by Josh Boutwell)

Troy brings back a number of veteran players to the 2021 team, including junior middle hitter Julia Brooks, senior setter Amara Anderson and senior right side hitter Halston Hillier. Brooks was awarded the first-team All-Sun Belt in 2021 and was the only player in the Sun Belt to place in the top 10 in all statistical categories. She racked up 353 kills and 27 solo blocks during the season. Anderson also won the second-team All-Sun belt in 2021 and recorded 1,166 assists, marking her third straight season with over 1,000 assists. Hillier also had 149 kills last season and sophomore Tori Hester also had 189 kills total in 2021.

“I think our team has always been built on being offensively aggressive and keeping our big attackers involved, so Julia Brooks is a big part of our firepower,” Lauer said. “Tori Hester is also going to have a breakout season in my opinion. We’re lucky to have Amara Anderson back for a fifth year, she’s super experienced and one of the most talented setters in the conference.

“Halston Hillier also came back for her fifth year, so we have some really important places where we have veteran experience. We will build on that and add some new parts as well.”

There are also some new names that Troy fans will get used to this season.

“(Junior) Ashley Guenveur is healthy this year so that’s exciting for her and the team,” Lauer said. “We also have some really talented newcomers. (Newcomer Amiah) Butler will surprise some people and some others will find ways to contribute in different ways.”

Butler (Pensacola, Fla.) is part of a class of six incoming freshmen that also includes defensive specialist Jaci Mesa (Canyon Lake, TX), middle hitters Ella Broadhead (Daphne) and defensive specialist Olivia Grantham (Gainesville, Fla.) and batsman Sara Bates (Cincinnati, OH) and outside batsman Maleah Howe (Waukesha, WI).

“They were great. We have six new rookies and they’re all full of energy,” Brooks said of her new teammates. “It’s nice to see the sparkle in their eyes as they get their first taste of college volleyball. They are competitive and aggressive which is great.”

Troy coach Josh Lauer begins his sixth year with the team and looks to continue the program’s recent success. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

Troy’s schedule this season is daunting. Troy will start the first three weeks of the regular season on the road, with much of it taking place in SEC country. The Trojans have games against Georgia, LSU, Penn State, Iowa State, Auburn and others during three tournament appearances before the home game schedule finally begins on September 15th.

“We’ve got a really challenging schedule this year, so our focus is on keeping a clear head and staying focused on the goal and why the schedule was built the way it was,” Lauer said. “We want to be the best team we can be in November. These first three weeks are intended to help build our armor and prepare us to compete at the top of our conference when it comes time for the Sun Belt Tournament.”

The Sun Belt, already one of the top volleyball conferences in the Group of Five, gets even tougher this season with the additions of James Madison, Southern Miss, Old Dominion and Marshall.

“We didn’t add any slouches, that’s for sure,” Lauer said of the new Sun Belt teams. “Volleyball is really, really strong in the sunbelt and I know volleyball in our region is sometimes a sport where people don’t even know what season we’re playing, but our conference is very strong.

“We need to be battle tested and for that we need to take to the streets and play in big schools. You don’t get opportunities for big wins unless you challenge yourself and take risks.”

Brooks didn’t take long to say what Troy’s main goal is this season when asked.

“We definitely want to win a championship in our conference, that’s one of our big goals,” emphasized Brooks. “We just have to be consistent throughout the season and try not to roller coaster in games and just be consistent no matter who we’re playing against.”

Lauer repeated his player’s opinion on the ultimate goal for 2022.

“I think our goal this year is to fight for the conference championship as soon as we get to the tournament,” he said. “Texas State eliminated us for the last three straight years, they’re a great team so we know where we need to be to win the Sun Belt.

“You have to be a top 50 team in the country to win the conference. It’s very similar to what’s going on in softball, baseball, basketball and soccer in the Sun Belt. Volleyball (in the Sunbelt) competes at a very high level nationally. It’s exciting and fun, but it’s a challenge, no doubt about that.”

Troy will start the season with a pre-season exhibition match at home against Samford on Monday 15 August at 2pm at the Trojan Arena. Troy’s regular home game schedule begins Thursday, September 15 with the Trojan Invitational. Troy will welcome Alabama State, Gardner-Webb and Jacksonville to Trojan Arena this weekend. Admission to the Troy volleyball games is free again this season.

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