VOLLEYBALL: Lady Toppers get back that No. 1 feeling

Amber North

For a month, Arkansas State has been touted as the No. 1 team in the Sun Belt East.

When the Lady Indians lost to Arkansas-Little Rock Friday, it gave the Lady Toppers that old feeling of being the top team in the division.

Western defeated Florida International on its home court Saturday to overtake the lead in the East again. Western beat the Golden Panthers in three (30-26, 30-23 30-26) to claim its 16th sweep of the season.

“It’s definitely was a big win,” assistant coach Natalie FurryCQ said. “(Coach) Travis (Hudson)CQ called it ‘Separation Saturday’ because it separated us from the pack of the division.”

Hudson was unavailable for comment.

That separation means the Lady Toppers are two games ahead of the next two teams, ASU and Little Rock, who are both 7-4 in the conference.

The Golden Panthers took an early 10-5 lead to start the first game, but later struggled to keep their momentum as both teams switched holding the lead.

The same story went for Game Two, with FIU (11-12, 3-7 Sun Belt Conference) taking the early lead. But Western’s hitting energy burst through the net, overcoming the deficit with a .364 hitting percentage to the Golden Panthers’ .278.

The two made it a close third game yet again, but this time Western sealed the match by taking the victory from the home team.

“We didn’t play well because we were inconsistent in all areas,” sophomore setter Caron BlotchCQ said. “But we got the job done to win.”

Three hitters were in the double-digit category for kills. Sophomore Crystal TowlerCQ led the bunch with 16. And junior Amanda SchiffCQ and sophomore Jessie Wagner both had 13 kills.

“We are so balanced offensively – all hitters are good,” Furry said. “Whenever a team tries to stop one, we have four or five hitters to hurt them.”

Defensively, the Lady Toppers (22-6, 8-2 Sun Belt) are just as balanced.

Senior libero Tracy MayCQ had 14 digs for the match, and junior defensive specialist Ashly MillerCQ dug 13 balls.

“We take pride in being a scrappy team, going after every ball,” Furry added.

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