VOLLEYBALL: Toppers soar above Eagles

Amber North

Over the past two weeks, winning has become little more than a yawn for the volleyball team.

The Lady Toppers traveled to Cookeville, Tenn., on Tuesday to make Tennessee Tech their sixth straight victim by sweeping the Golden Eagles in three games (30-17, 30-27, 30-21).

Senior libero Tracy May, the reigning Defensive Player of the Week, had a game-high 14 digs to push her way into fourth place on Western’s all-time digs list.

May now has 1,312 career digs, which surpasses former Lady Topper Beaven Hill’s 1,303, now fifth all-time.

“I’m excited and honored, and it is a great accomplishment for me,” May said. “I have a whole season left, but I’m excited about it.”

Coming into the match on a winning streak helped put the team in the right direction, but it didn’t mean the victory would come easy.

“It was a challenge because it was a road match,” coach Travis Hudson said. “I don’t feel we played terrific volleyball, but we did what was best.”

Western (6-2) controlled the first game by not allowing Tech to score in its first four possessions.

The Golden Eagles were as close as three points but could not contain Western’s power hitting. The Lady Toppers had a .357 hitting percentage for the game while Tech had a minus .037 percentage.

The second game was not as promising for the Lady Toppers. The team lost its groove, and trailed Tech 13-8.

Then Western went on a five-point run which stole the momentum and eventually won the game.

In the third game the Golden Eagles took advantage of their chance to come back by scoring six straight points to take an early 8-4 lead.

But Tech’s opportunity to avoid a sweep was cut short.

Despite hitting .167 for the game, the Lady Toppers still managed to brush Tech off their home court.

“I don’t think they found a rhythm,” Hudson said. “We controlled the tempo, especially early into the match.”

Leading the team with eight kills each were sophomore Crystal Towler, senior Cynda Derbort and junior Amanda Cecil. Cecil barely missed grabbing her third double-double of the season after collecting 12 digs.

Caron Blotch, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week, continued to impress as she recorded 30 assists and seven kills while hitting .545 for the match.

“My performance wasn’t spectacular, but I’m playing steady,” Blotch said. “I’m feeling better, getting into a rhythm.”

This weekend Western will host the WKU Tournament. The Lady Toppers will host James Madison, Toledo and Tennessee-Martin.

Western will play Toledo at 7 Friday night in Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers will then play James Madison at noon Saturday and UT-Martin at 7 p.m.

The last time Western played James Madison was in the 1997 season, losing in three games.

JMU (5-3) is entering the match riding a four-game winning streak and was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Toledo enters with a 2-4 record. Sophomore middle blocker Kelsey Culver leads the Mid-American Conference with a .394 hitting percentage.

UT-Martin (0-8) is hoping the tournament will yield the first win of the season. The Skyhawks were picked to finish fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]