VOLLEYBALL: Sun Belt play starts with two wins

Amber North

Sun Belt Conference opponents are no longer intimidated by Western, coming more prepared to compete against the defending champions. And last weekend wasn’t a cupcake schedule for the Lady Toppers.

Western started its conference schedule Friday with a win against Louisiana-Lafayette and against Middle Tennessee Sunday. Sunday’s win extended its home win streak to 29 and SBC win streak to 24.

Coach Travis Hudson described the team’s 3-0 (30-19, 30-28, 30-25) win against the Lady Blue Raiders with one word: ugly.

“We’re not putting complete efforts on the floor,” he said.

MTSU came into the Lady Toppers’ house and gave them a harsh battle. Western built a 25-7 lead in the first game thanks to a 13-0 run. But MTSU bounced back toward the end of the game, with a 5-0 run of its own.

Despite taking the win in Game One, the Lady Toppers struggled to find their rhythm in the next two games.

The Lady Blue Raiders hung close with Western in the second game and tied the game at 28. Sophomore Crystal Towler’s kill and an MTSU hitting error on back-to-back plays gave Western the win.

The third game was just as hard fought, as the teams exchanged the lead before Western grabbed the lead for good at 18-17.

“We tried hard and came strong,” senior Tracy May said. “But we let up later in the match, and the intensity level wasn’t there.” Friday the team flew to Lafayette, La., to play Louisiana-Lafayette, its first conference opponent.

Although the Ragin’ Cajuns were 4-9 before the match, they gave Western a difficult time. After losing in the first game 30-14, Lafayette took the second game 30-28.

Western took the final two games 31-29 and 30-15, respectively.

Junior Amanda Schiff had a season-high 21 kills for the match while May dug a game-high 18 balls.

Western has a history of starting the game off strong, only to lose its intensity later on into the match. Against Indiana Sept. 20, the Lady Toppers won the first two games but lost the next three.

Situations such as these worry Hudson the most.

“I don’t think we understand that we have to finish it off when we’re in the position to win, we have to put people away,” he said.

The Lady Toppers play Belmont Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena. Then, over fall break, they will head back on the road to play SBC East opponents Arkansas State Oct. 3 and Arkansas-Little Rock Oct. 4.

Reach Amber North at [email protected].