VOLLEYBALL: Lady Tops won’t take road foes lightly

Amber North

On paper, New Orleans and South Alabama look like two sure wins for the Lady Toppers this weekend.

But Coach Travis Hudson does not want to count them in the win column just yet.

“Any time when traveling on the road, you’re crazy to overlook any team,” Hudson said.

Even though Western is readily prepared for its next two opponents, its focus is not on them.

“Our main focus is on our side of the net,” senior outside hitter Cynda Derbort said. “It’s important to be ready to play, to do what we need to do.”

New Orleans (8-15, 2-5 Sun Belt) is fourth in the Sun Belt West, followed by South Alabama at fifth.

The Privateers dropped the last three matches last week. But just because New Orleans has only won eight matches doesn’t mean it is not a strong force on its home court.

Hudson remembers three years ago when the Privateers hosted the SBC tournament.

The Lady Toppers came into the tourney as the No. 2 seed and they faced No. 7 New Orleans. The Privateers swept Western in three games.

“New Orleans is more of a tough road match because of its atmosphere,” Derbort said. “The crowd is tough – they have hecklers.”

South Alabama (4-15, 1-7) is working under a new coach, Nicole Keshock, who is in her first year coaching at the Division I level.

“They’re in a spoiler role right now,” Hudson said. “While we’re fighting to win the conference, they’re fighting to qualify for the conference tournament.”

Throughout this season the Lady Toppers have struggled to maintain their leads and finish off their opponents in matches.

The New Mexico State loss last Friday is a bitter reminder of this, and junior defensive specialist Ashly Miller does not want that to happen again.

“We need to focus on finishing,” she said. “Right now our team needs consistency and to have all of our players at the top of their game.”

The Lady Toppers play seven more conference matches before they host the SBC tournament in late November.

That’s plenty of time for Western to earn a solid top seed.

“I’m really pleased with the character we showed last weekend,” Hudson said. “If we play well we can run the table for the rest of this season.”

Reach Amber North at [email protected]