Lady Toppers host pair of Texas teams

Clay Manlove

The WKU volleyball team returns home from a two-match away slate this weekend when they host a pair of conference foes in Texas-El Paso and Texas-San Antonio.

The Lady Toppers welcome in their opponents from the Lone Star State after picking up a pair of conference victories last weekend, both sweeps over Alabama-Birmingham and Florida International.

With the pair of conference wins, the Lady Toppers improved to 21-2 on the season and to 7-0 in Conference USA play. Additionally, WKU has won 17 consecutive matches, 32-straight C-USA matches (a conference record) and 48-straight home C-USA matches.

The Lady Toppers kick off the weekend slate when they welcome in a young UTEP squad (4-16 overall, 1-5 C-USA) that has lost 11 of its last 12 matches.

The Miners are led on offense by sophomore outside hitter Macey Austin, who has compiled 260 kills on the season while hitting at a collective .226 hitting clip. Freshman outside hitter Cheyenne Jones follows suit with 139 kills on a .131 hitting percentage.

Defensively for the Miners, sophomore defensive specialist Niki Cebak leads UTEP with 227 digs (3.11 digs per set) followed by sophomore outside hitter Briana Arellano’s 147 digs (2.07 digs per set). Junior middle blocker Kylie Baumgartner leads the Miners with 50.0 blocks.

As a team, UTEP has hit at a collective .166 hitting clip while allowing opponents to a .239 percentage on the season. The Miners have been out-killed 971-860 in 2017 and have committed 436 attack errors.

WKU will continue its home slate on Sunday afternoon when they welcome in UTSA. The Roadrunners have only a 7-11 record, but have won their last four matches and are 5-1 in conference play, looking to advance to 6-1 when they visit Rice on Friday evening.

Sophomore outside hitter Brianna McCulloch leads the Roadrunners on offense with 268 kills in 2017 while hitting at a collective .208 clip. Following close behind is senior outside hitter Marijeta Runjic with 230 kills and a .193 hitting percentage. Junior setter Amanda Gonzalez has tallied 702 assists on the season.

Junior defensive specialist Shelby Williams leads the Roadrunners on the defensive side of the net with 186 digs (2.70 per set) while McCulloch follows close behind with 184 digs (2.56 digs/set). Sophomore middle hitter Kara Teal leads UTSA with 51 blocks, followed by senior middle hitter Megan Slan’s 39.

Collectively, the Roadrunners are hitting at a .200 clip while allowing opponents a .230 hitting percentage in 2017.

Both teams the Lady Toppers will welcome this weekend have hit at or below a .200 clip on the season, which should work out in favor of WKU, who has allowed teams to hit at only a .172 clip in 2017. Additionally, both teams have allowed opponents a .230 hitting percentage or higher while the Lady Toppers have hit at a .343 clip on the season.

WKU senior Sydney Engle continued to show her versatility on the defensive side of the net as she picked up her fourth C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honor on Monday.

Across three sweeps for the Lady Toppers in the past week, Engle averaged 2.44 digs per set and 0.67 blocks per set on the defensive side of the net while also averaging 2.83 points per set, 2.11 kills per set, 1.33 assists per set and 0.33 service aces per set. Engle hit at a collective .349 clip on the week with 19 kills on 43 attacks.

The Lady Toppers will continue their four-match home slate with two conference matches against Marshall and UAB next Friday and Sunday, respectively, in Diddle Arena. The two matches will be the final regular season home matches for the Lady Toppers before hosting the Conference USA tournament from Friday, Nov. 17 to Sunday, Nov. 19.

Reporter Clay Manlove can be reached at (270) 724-9620 or at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ctmanlove58.