VOLLEYBALL: Lady Tops run SBC table

Michael Casagrande

While coach Travis Hudson is a young man, he may have sprouted a few gray hairs through the course of his team’s five-game barn burner Friday night at North Texas (15-16, 9-5 SBC).

The Lady Toppers (30-4, 14-0 SBC) entered the “Snake Pit” with the No. 1 seed wrapped up for this week’s Sun Belt Conference tournament, but limped out with their most narrow victory of the season.

Still, Hudson was fairly pleased with his team’s performance, and was proud of the mental toughness they displayed.

“It wasn’t the best match we’ve played all year,” Hudson said. “But again I think it really shows the character of this team, to be behind 2-1 and be able to find a way back into the match.”

Riding the emotional tidal wave of their Senior Night, the Mean Green used a .359 hitting percentage in the first game to gain a 1-0 advantage with a 30-22 win.

Western answered back with a 30-27 win in Game Two. After trading the next two games, a pivotal Game Five put the Lady Toppers’ perfect Sun Belt record to its toughest test.

Neither team could gain any kind of momentum in the final game. The two traded punches until Amanda Schiff gave Western a 12-10 lead in the race to 15.

But North Texas wasn’t finished fighting.

The Mean Green knotted the score at 12 before Crystal Towler took over. The freshman gave the Lady Toppers the lead with a tip, and the win with another of her career-high 21 kills.

With his team three points away from its first loss since September, Hudson said he was never concerned.

“Did I think we were on the ropes? Honestly, never,” Hudson said.

Towler became the second freshman and fourth Lady Topper to win a Sun Belt weekly award this year. By taking home Sun Belt Player of the Week, Towler became only the second freshman to win the award, joining teammate Jessie Wagner.

Western will migrate south to Miami for the Sun Belt tournament Thursday through Saturday. The Lady Toppers’ first-round opponent is eighth-seeded Denver (7-18).

And after the best regular season in school history, Western thinks this might be the year to win the tournament and earn its first NCAA tournament berth.

“We’re definitely going to win it all,” junior Cynda Derbort said. “I think we are a head above all the other teams … There is no one that can stop us.”