VOLLEYBALL: Lady Tops host chance for NCAA bid

Amber North

The regular season has now faded into obscurity. The wins and losses each team in the Sun Belt Conference has collected are now irrelevant.

When the Lady Toppers set foot in Diddle Arena tonight to host the conference tournament, they’ll be playing for a different purpose: to win an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, just like they did last season.

“It’d be just as awesome as it was last year if we get to go again,” sophomore defensive specialist Abby Borror said. “Going to the NCAA is something we’ve dreamed of ever since we were little girls, and it’s something you want to keep experiencing.”

But Western has to get past No. 7 Middle Tennessee first, who they play tonight at 5 p.m.

Even after beating MTSU twice this year, Hudson said Western can’t stop its own momentum.

“It’s important we come out to do what we’ve done well in the entire tournament,” coach Travis Hudson said. “Overlooking things can be the last mistake you make in the season.”

Four Lady Toppers earned all-conference honors yesterday at the pre-tournament banquet.

Junior outside hitter Amanda Schiff and sophomore setter Caron Blotch were named first team All-Sun Belt. Blotch was also named Newcomer of the Year.

Named to the second team were sophomore outside hitter Crystal Towler and senior libero Tracy May.

After being hidden under the spotlight her first two seasons, Schiff has stepped up to be a key player.

Even though she has gained more recognition this season, Schiff brushes off the thought of being targeted as the player to watch.

“Our offense has been very balanced,” Schiff said. “With that, they just can’t sit on one of us – the rest of the team gets the job done just fine.”

That balanced offense is what will be needed most if Western gets a chance against No. 1 seeded New Mexico State.

“They’re a good team and we have a lot of work to do to even consider a match-up with them,” Hudson said.

To Hudson, the title is set to fall into any of the eight participating teams’ hands.

“Any team has the ability to get it done,” Hudson said. “There’s always an upset in the conference tournament.”

So having the tournament in Diddle Arena is a big boost for the Lady Toppers’ confidence.

“We’re ready to kick some butt because they are coming to our house,” Borror said.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]