VOLLEYBALL: Lady Tops win SBC opener on road

Michael Casagrande

The Western volleyball team took its first step toward a three-peat in the Sun Belt East Division by knocking off Middle Tennessee 3-1 on the road last night to open conference play.

The Lady Toppers improved to 15-4 for the season, but more importantly, earned their first crucial conference win.

“It was a huge win for us,” coach Travis Hudson said. “They came out to prove something tonight.”

Western won despite a .196 hitting percentage. Only once in the past four games have the Lady Toppers hit above .200.

Sophomore middle hitter Amanda Schiff led the team with 16 kills and a .333 hitting percentage. Schiff said the start of conference play has pumped some energy into the travel-weary team.

“I think we played with tons of emotion,” Schiff said. “We came out ready to play.”

Sophomore outside hitter Amanda Cecil continued her recent hot streak by recording a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs. And while pleased with the win, Hudson noted some room for improvement, sounding a bit like Yogi Berra.

“I don’t think we played well, but I like how we played,” Hudson said.

The battle-tested Lady Toppers ran into an upstart group of Blue Raiders. MTSU spoiled Western’s hopes of getting home early Wednesday night, dropping the Lady Toppers 30-23 in the second game to even the match.

The Lady Toppers responded behind the leadership of senior setter Sara Noe and her 44 assists. Western took the final two games, both tightly contested, 30-26 and 30-28. The Lady Toppers held MTSU to a .143 hitting percentage in the third and won the fourth and final game despite a meager .098 percentage themselves. It wasn?t perfect, but a good first step.

“It was a great win,” Noe said. “It’s good to start out 1-0 in the conference.”

Western will put its 16-game home winning streak on the line when they return to Sun Belt action at 7 p.m. tomorrow against Louisiana-Lafayette at the Preston Health and Activities Center.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]