By Mike Deak
BOURBON – If ever there was a demo model for what a ‘roller coaster season’ looked like, look no further than the 2019 Triton volleyball season. Ebbs and flows kept Gayle Perry and the Big Blue Slam fans riding high one day, then wondering what happened the next. But even Perry had to stop and admire what her team was able to accomplish following another championship season.
The Trojans started its season 6-4 and had a program builder win with a 3-1 victory at North Judson. The win wasn’t just a good Hoosier North Athletic Conference tally, it was a statement win against the defending Class 2-A state champions. But keeping in theme, Triton visited Tippecanoe Valley the very next night and were clobbered, 3-0, in a match Perry noted as “tough to watch”.
Triton then figured things out to win four of its next five, then ended the season losing six of eight before putting together the program’s latest sectional title in knocking off host West Central 3-0 and Oregon Davis 3-1 to claim the sectional title. The Trojans were beaten the next week by eventual regional champion Morgan Township in straights.
The Trojans went from six wins in 2018 to a 16-17 record in 2019.
Triton won its 10th sectional title at West Central and fifth since 2014. While the sustained success isn’t surprising for a team that has been there before, Perry noted her team really had to dig deep this season to make it come together.
“Yes our varsity season was a bit of a roller coaster,” Perry said. “I thought it would be as this team learned how to win and started to figure out who the leaders were on the floor in crunch time.”
Perry announced following the season that she will retire from coaching and teaching, and does so after two stints with the Blue Slam. Perry concludes her second stint as Triton head coach that had her coach the team from 1987 to 2007 then again from 2016 through the 2019 season. Perry guided the team to three sectional championships in her Triton coaching career.
Triton is certainly set up for the next coach to make another run in what looks to be a sectional that likely won’t have a juggernaut in it once again.
The Trojans had just one senior in its regular mix last year in Alyxa Viers. It was a heavy junior class that did a lot of the lifting. Setters Dylanie Miller and Emma Hepler combined for 553 assists, and Alyxa’s sister, Abbey, pounded down a team-leading 234 kills while Lexia Hostrawser connected on 195 winners. Hostrawser also had a team-leading 38 aces and 26 blocks. On the defensive side, Molly McFarland was another junior that put in the work, digging up 344 opposition attempts.
“They peaked and really started coaching and adjusting on the court themselves,” Perry said. “They didn’t rely on the coach to tell them everything or how to adjust. They looked past nobody and really played like a team. Very goal focused, they wanted to win the sectional. Nothing like experience to help one grow.”