VOLLEYBALL: Winning streak grows to nine as Western sweeps tourney

Amber North

The volleyball team hosted last weekend’s WKU Invitational Tournament with one thought in mind: Treat it like the Sun Belt Tournament.

Had this been the conference tournament the Lady Toppers will host in November, Western would have walked away conference champions.

The Lady Toppers defeated three teams to win the tournament title, boosting their winning streak to nine for the season.

And at Diddle Arena, nobody has stood a chance as Western has strung together 28 straight home wins.

The first contest against Toledo Friday looked to be easy because the Rockets entered with a 2-4 record.

But the record didn’t mean the match was going to be easy.

Toledo brought plenty of emotion but left the match with just a .044 hitting percentage because of errors and Western’s wall of blockers.

The first game of the match started off a little sluggish for the Lady Toppers, but once they picked up their defensive and hitting game, Toledo had a tough time. Western took the match in a three-game sweep (30-14, 30-21, 30-16).

Throughout the match, Western’s consistency at the net was too forceful for Toledo to contain, hitting at a season-high .471 percentage.

“I’m happy about how we played,” coach Travis Hudson said. “We beat a good volleyball team, but the players made it look easier.”

Sophomore Crystal Towler had one of her best performances of the season, collecting 13 kills while hitting .632.

“Caron (Blotch) and I are really connecting well, and I’m finally getting into a groove,” Towler said.

Junior Amanda Schiff added 10 kills while hitting .769 with no errors.

When Western faced James Madison Saturday afternoon, it was hungry to eat up its eighth-straight opponent.

But once again, it wasn’t easy to knock off the Dukes, but the Lady Toppers still managed to defeat them in three (30-28, 30-26, 30-20).

Schiff continued to perform well and collected 14 kills on the match.

But her best performance was to come.

Later that evening the Lady Toppers defeated their final opponent, Tennessee-Martin, in another sweep (30-25, 30-12, 30-19).

Schiff went on another hitting tear, tallying 17 kills on a .762 hitting percentage.

After struggling from the past two weeks, Schiff proved to be a monstrous force at the net.

Schiff was having problems with her swing, but after a week of practice, the problems appear to be solved.

“Caron and the passers have been doing great, which makes it 10 times easier for me,” Schiff said.

Schiff totaled 41 kills for the weekend and was named the tournament most valuable player. Jessie Wagner was also named to the All-Tournament team.

Out of the 12 games Western has played in its four matches at home, an opponent has yet to win a single game. If it continues at this pace, winning the conference and making it to the NCAA tournament will be a reality.

But for now, the team will focus on the present.

“I’m satisfied at how we’re really progressing,” Hudson said. “But I’m more concerned about our conference schedule.”

That’s still more than a week away. For now, Western will try to keep its streak alive tonight at 7 p.m. at Cincinnati.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]