VOLLEYBALL: Western still perfect at home, Sun Belt

Michael Casagrande

For most college volleyball teams, playing two matches in 18 hours would be a chore. For the Lady Toppers, it was a recipe for perfection.

Western celebrated homecoming weekend by winning all six games of its two Sun Belt Conference showdowns with New Orleans (10-14, 3-5 SBC) Friday night and South Alabama (5-19, 0-9 SBC) Saturday afternoon.

Friday night’s sweep of the Privateers was a milestone for coach Travis Hudson. The 1994 graduate of Western recorded his 150th career victory in front of a home crowd that numbered nearly 700.

“I think we feel pretty good about ourselves,” Hudson said. “But I am keeping their confidence level somewhat subdued because I know there is still more to come.”

The Lady Toppers cruised to a 3-0 victory against New Orleans behind a balanced attack from a trio of hitters. Amanda Schiff, Crystal Towler and Cynda Derbort recorded double digits in kills, with Derbort posting a .450 hitting percentage.

After destroying the Privateers 30-17 in Game One, Western let New Orleans back into the match when Game Two became a battle.

The score was knotted at 25 before a 4-0 run from the Lady Toppers set them up for the win. A kill from Schiff provided an exclamation point on the 30-26 victory.

The feisty group from New Orleans fought its way to a 21-21 tie and a narrow 29-28 deficit late in the game.

But the Privateers had no answer for Schiff, as she provided another game-winning kill that clinched the match for Western.

The short turnaround between the two matches was to accommodate the 4:30 p.m. kickoff of the homecoming football game with Indiana State Saturday. That meant the first volleyball took flight at 1 p.m.

Despite little time to rest, sophomore hitter Amanda Cecil felt there was a positive aspect to the back-to-back matches.

“It was rough, but I think it’s good also because we stayed focused, and you don’t have a big gap in between games when you have time to think about other things,” Cecil said.

And the Lady Toppers showed no sign of fatigue as they blew the Lady Jaguars out of the gym with their second straight sweep. The win continued Western’s dominance of South Alabama. Dating to 1989, the Lady Toppers are 17-1 against the Lady Jags.

Schiff again led Western in kills with 16, and a blistering .714 hitting percentage. The freshman duo of hitters, Jessie Wagner and Towler, also had double-digit kill totals.

Game One was a see-saw battle in the early stages. South Alabama took a 13-12 lead before the Lady Toppers went on a 7-1 tear, largely behind the serving success of Towler.

A kill by Cecil ended the first game, giving Western a 30-26 win.

From that point on, it was all Lady Toppers, as they captured the second and third games with relative ease.

By the end of Game Three, the Lady Jaguars – who haven’t won in the conference – were visibly shaken and clearly frustrated by the dominance of the Lady Toppers.

But even with Western’s perfect Sun Belt record, including 17 straight wins in the conference and 22nd straight wins at home, Hudson still isn’t satisfied with the play of his team.

“People look at me like I’m crazy, but I still don’t think we are playing as good as we are capable of playing,” Hudson said smiling.

The Lady Toppers will get a brief reprieve from Sun Belt play tonight as they travel to Clarksville, Tenn., to face Austin Peay of the Ohio Valley Conference at 7.