VOLLEYBALL: Lady Tops fall at IU tourney

Amber North

Before opening conference play this weekend, Western volleyball had one last chance to wash the loss to Cincinnati away.

The Lady Toppers competed in their final non-conference tournament at the Indiana Invitational last weekend, in search of redemption from last Tuesday’s loss.

Western won the first two matches Friday and Saturday against Austin Peay and Saint Louis but lost in the championship match against host Indiana that evening.

It looked as if Western was going to win its third consecutive non-conference tournament in the beginning of the IU match after taking the first two games.

But the Hoosiers were too stubborn to be embarrassed on their home court.

IU controlled the third game throughout, only letting Western to get as close as four points.

The lead went back and forth in the fourth contest, totaling 15 ties in the game. Leading 24-23, IU went on a three-point surge to set off the win and force a fifth game.

Western kept the game close but the Hoosiers were too determined not to lose on their home court.

“I really felt IU took the match, not us giving it away,” coach Travis Hudson said. “To be in a position to win on their home court was a huge statement about our team.”

In the opening match last Friday against Austin Peay at the IU Invitational, the Lady Toppers defeated the Lady Governors in three (30-18, 30-22, 32-30).

Junior Amanda Schiff and sophomore Jessie Wagner combined for 32 kills.

Schiff led the team with 17 kills, and Wagner added 15 on a career-high .682 hitting percentage.

After winning the first game, the Lady Toppers found themselves in a rut with a 21-12 deficit in the second game. But Western snapped out of its funk to tie the game at 22-all. The team highlighted its comeback by ending the game on an 8-0 run.

That intensity carried over into the final game.

Prior to the third Austin Peay game, the Lady Toppers were 0-5 this season when forced to score more than 30 points in a game. The Lady Govs added another 30-plus scoring game, but it wasn’t enough as Western escaped with the match victory.

The Lady Tops battled with Saint Louis Saturday, going into four games to win (27-30, 30-23, 30-27, 30-13).

Junior Amanda Cecil recorded her third double-double of the season with 10 kills and 11 digs. Sophomore Caron Blotch had three digs shy of a triple-double, posting 50 assists and 10 kills.

After losing the first game, Western forced 12 Billiken hitting errors in the second game. The Lady Toppers returned to dominating form in the final game, allowing SLU only 13 points.

“Our first two matches we played really well,” Cecil said. “They weren’t our tough competition, but we were able to put them away.”

After battling back from large deficits and wasting leads all weekend, Blotch said the team needs to concentrate on keeping a steady momentum.

“We played well most of the time, but there were times where we lost our focus,” she said. “Come conference time we can’t do that.”

Western will open conference play Friday at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]