Lady Toppers to close out regular season at North Texas

Clay Manlove

The Lady Topper volleyball team will hit the road to take on perhaps one of their most challenging opponents yet when they face an experienced North Texas team on Thursday night in Denton.

The matchup between WKU and the Mean Green should be highly anticipated as North Texas has emerged as the second-best team in Conference USA behind the Lady Toppers, compiling a 24-2 overall record and an 11-1 record in conference play.

The lone conference loss for North Texas was a 3-2 decision to Southern Mississippi in its conference opener on Sept. 22. The Lady Toppers swept the Golden Eagles in Diddle Arena on Oct. 6.

“[North Texas] is a lot like us in that they’ve had a lot of seniors that have played a lot of volleyball games,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said after Sunday’s win over Middle Tennessee. “A lot of credit goes to [Mean Green head coach Andrew Palileo]; those kids have gotten better every year that he’s been in their program. They’re seniors, and they’re playing like seniors.”

Like WKU, the Mean Green plays to the tune of an explosive offense that has averaged a .302 hitting percentage on the season and a defense that has held opponents to a .184 clip.

“We’ve got to lock [North Texas] down defensively,” senior setter Jessica Lucas said after Sunday’s win over MTSU. “We just need to go out and have fun. It’s the last one for our seniors. It’s going to be crazy in that gym, so it will be a fun match.”

The Mean Green is led on offense by senior middle blocker Aman Chamberlain, who has racked up 299 kills on the season while hitting at an impressive .480 percentage. Senior middle blocker Holly Milam follows up with 245 kills on the season while junior setter Karley York has 1106 assists.

Chamberlain also leads North Texas on defense with 101 total blocks while freshman libero Henrianna Ibarra has a team-high 222 digs.

The Lady Toppers clinched a share of the C-USA regular season title for the fourth straight season on Sunday after sweeping MTSU in Murfreesboro.

For the 10th week in a row, the Lady Toppers saw players earn individual awards as Jessica Lucas and Darby Music picked up weekly honors.

Lucas was named Conference USA Setter of the Week for the sixth time this season after picking up 66 assists over the weekend slate, facilitating the WKU offense to sweeps over Rice and MTSU.

Lucas also tallied 20 digs, nine kills, four aces, four blocks and a .444 hitting percentage on the weekend.

With her award, the senior Lucas set a C-USA record with 18 individual awards during her tenure with the Lady Toppers.

Music was awarded C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors after collecting 20 digs (3.33 digs/set) over the weekend. Music also accumulated a service ace, two assists, a 100 percent serve percentage and a 100 percent receive percentage.

With the pair of awards, the Lady Toppers have now collected 16 individual awards on the season, Lucas with a conference-high six honors.

After sitting at No. 25 last week, the Lady Toppers dropped back out of the AVCA Top 25 polls, coming in at No. 26.

WKU will be back in Diddle to host the C-USA Tournament from Friday, Nov. 17 to Sunday, Nov. 19.

Reporter Clay Manlove can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ctmanlove58.