COLUMN: Weekend poses great opportunity to catch your favorite team

Jonah Phillips

Jonah Phillips

The leaves on the trees may still be green, but the 2015 fall sports season is in full swing on the Hill. As respective sports teams wrap up their nonconference slates, Conference USA play begins raising the stakes.

While football, volleyball, soccer and cross-country launched weeks ago, the men’s golf team began its season in Memphis on Monday and Tuesday, and the women’s golf team finished 10th in its season opener in Richmond at Eastern Kentucky University.

Some of WKU’s teams are doing exceptionally well this year. All Hilltopper programs entering conference play do so with winning records, and WKU football has its first conference win in a 41-38 victory over Louisiana Tech. 

That so many teams are entering conference play with winning records is exciting to Hilltopper fans; arguably even more exciting, though, is the action those teams are bringing to the Hill this weekend. 

WKU football (2-1) hosts a 1-2 Miami (Ohio) team in the Hilltoppers’ third nonconference matchup of the season on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. 

Miami will be a solid opportunity for the Hilltoppers to put their offense and defense on display after facing SEC, Big 10 and C-USA opponents in their first three games. 

The matchup won’t be a cakewalk, but compared to the first three contests, this game offers the Hilltoppers a more opportune chance to impose themselves on an opponent. 

Away from Smith Stadium, the Lady Toppers volleyball team (12-2) will play its first home league matches this weekend. 

WKU squared off against Marshall last night in Huntington, West Virginia, to begin league play; as of this paper’s publication time, the contest has not concluded.

This weekend, the Lady Toppers will square off with a 6-8 Louisiana Tech team on Friday at 7 p.m. before welcoming an 8-4 Florida International University on Sunday at noon. FIU already holds two conference wins over University of Alabama Birmingham and Florida Atlantic University. 

Since the season began, Head Coach Travis Hudson pulled in his 500th career win in a sweeping victory over Colgate in Madison, Wisconsin.  

He has since pulled in nine more wins as the Lady Toppers, prior to their clash with Marshall, sustained a six-game winning streak. The Lady Tops won seven of their last eight games and claimed eight of their 12 victories via three-set sweeps this season. 

The team even snuck into the Top 25 for a week and has received votes in every poll this season.  Their current national ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association polls in is No. 28 after they received 47 votes — 31 off a No. 25 ranking.  

But maybe football or volleyball isn’t your thing. 

Swing over to the WKU Soccer Complex to see the soccer team (4-2-2) begin conference play. Quite a bit of narrative goes into the matchups this weekend. 

On Friday at 6 p.m., Head Coach Jason Neidell will lead his squad into league play against the reigning 2014 C-USA Champion: the Rice University Owls (4-3-1). WKU comes in fresh off a five-game undefeated streak. 

Though the game is exciting because it pits the Lady Toppers against last year’s champion, the teams’ records also stir interest. WKU has generated results over the last five games; Rice, meanwhile, lost its past two games by giving up a combined seven goals and only netting two. 

While the Lady Toppers seem to be very much in form, the form of the incoming competition remains in question. 

The Lady Toppers won’t have it easy though.  Rice brings a squad that has allowed 14 goals: just one more goal than WKU conceded with 13. While WKU has allowed one less goal than Rice, the Owls have scored 13 goals: two more than WKU’s 11. 

The Owls also bring senior forward Lauren Hughes, 2014 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, who has netted four goals and added four assists in her final campaign. 

If facing the 2014 champs isn’t enough, the Lady Toppers confront Louisiana Tech two days later on Sunday at 1 p.m. Rice may be last year’s champion, but the Bulldogs look like champs in 2015.  La. Tech will travel to Bowling Green with a 7-3 record, tied for third-best nonconference record in the league. 

It has been a decent five weeks for Hilltopper fans. Catch your favorite team — or all three — in Bowling Green this weekend.