Lowering the boom
FRONT ROYAL — It’s a sound that Warren County volleyball coach Sarah Putnam has grown quite fond of over the last few years.
The thud of a hand as it strikes the leather skin of a volleyball, the boom as the ball connects with the floor or a defender who was unfortunate enough to be in its path — those sounds, though a familiar melody during any volleyball match, seem amplified whenever Autumn Troxell is on the attack.
That distinct noise — of Troxell sending a ball to the floor with more force than most who match up with her on the volleyball court — has been thundering in Warren County’s gymnasium for the last five seasons. It’s a sound that Putnam will most certainly miss.
“That sound when she hits the ball or when the ball hits the floor, hits off the opponent — which, it hurts; trust me, it hurts when she hits at you like that — but that just gives the whole team confidence and they just want to do it over and over again,” Putnam said recently. “It’s the adrenaline.”
Troxell has been giving her Wildcat teammates an emotional lift with her booming kills on the court for much of her four-year varsity volleyball career at Warren County, and she saved her greatest hits for her final season.
As a senior this past fall, Troxell led the area in most major statistical categories. She finished with 432 kills — over 250 kills better than the second-highest total in the local area — 127 blocks, 72 aces and 395 digs, all of which were career highs.
Troxell earned Conference 28 Player of the Year honors, was a first-team all-Bull Run District selection and a second team all-Region 3A East pick. And for all of her accomplishments, Troxell has been named The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2014 Volleyball Player of the Year for the second straight year.
“It’s probably the fact that it was my senior year and I had a strong team behind me to help me get those numbers. I wouldn’t have any of these accomplishments without them,” Troxell said of her on-court success this past fall. “But it was definitely the drive of my senior year. It definitely put a fire under me. I tried to do my best and play as hard as I could.”
Since Putnam took over as Warren County’s volleyball coach three years ago, she dedicated time to turning Troxell into a complete player with enough versatility to warrant leaving her on the court no matter her spot in the rotation.
Troxell took great steps towards becoming that all-purpose player last year as a junior, but she pushed that role to even greater heights this past season, as evidenced by her area highs in aces and digs.
“She had confidence in herself this season, and knowing that it was her last high school season, I think she wanted to make the most of it and have a great season both for herself personally and as a team, and we were able to do that,” Putnam said.
Troxell also got a boost last spring when she attended a tryout with the Under Armour Volleyball Factory in Northern Virginia. While there, Troxell said she worked through different drills and received valuable feedback that assessed her ability, which helped her improve her footwork and blocking at the net in the months leading up to the start of the high school volleyball season.
“It definitely opened my eyes and made me realize the little things that I needed to maybe tighten up a little bit,” Troxell said.
Troxell even made adjustments to her attack that transformed her into an even more dangerous scoring threat. Building off the groundwork she laid last season, Troxell became more fluent this fall in her ability to adjust the power and direction of her shots in midair, an attribute Troxell said made her game more “spontaneous” and caused her to be that much more effective.
But Troxell’s core strength — the sheer power behind her attack — still remained as Warren County’s greatest asset this season.
The 6-foot-1 Troxell averaged 16.6 kills per match for Warren County (16-10) this past season but, more importantly, she lifted the Wildcats’ spirits with each thunderous kill.
“I know what I have to do, so I just use that energy to drive me to want to put it where it needs to be or put it down for my teammates, to get that kill that’s going to rally us up or get everyone up when everyone’s down. It just comes from within,” Troxell said.
“You could be having a slow night and one kill can just turn everything around and get everyone hyped. That’s really the goal of it, to just get everyone up and get moving and just get control.”
That powerful ability to land shots should certainly open some doors for Troxell if she decides to play volleyball at the college level. Continuing her volleyball career is currently one of Troxell’s goals, but as of right now she has no concrete plan in place and is still exploring her options. Troxell said she has sent some videos out to various schools, and Putnam added that she’s heard from a few colleges in New York and North Carolina that have shown some interest.
Troxell’s production will be tough to replace next season, but Putnam said the senior served as a good role model for Warren County’s younger players and she expects some of them to be ready to step into Troxell’s place.
“She has such respect for the game itself and the officials, the other team and her teammates. In the 10 years I’ve been doing this I haven’t seen a player have that much respect towards all aspects of the game,” Putnam said.
“She’s definitely leaving the program in a better place than when she came in as an eighth grader and I think it’s just her dedication, her attitude, the positive attitude toward everything.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com