VOLLEYBALL: Lady Tops roll, dominate Evansville

Michael Casagrande

What the Lady Toppers may have been lacked in intensity, they made up for in raw talent Tuesday night, as they dropped the Evansville Purple Aces in consecutive games (30-22, 30-17, 30-25) at the Preston Health and Activities Center.?

Western’s volleyball team (12-3) won despite a lack of enthusiasm that didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Travis Hudson.

“I think we played hard, but we were flat emotionally,” Hudson said.

Sophomore outside hitter Amanda Cecil led the team in kills with 13 and summed up the team’s attitude after the win.

“We got the job done,” she said.

The Lady Toppers held Evansville to a season-low hitting percentage of .039, while hitting .228 themselves.

Western opened the match with an 8-3 run. After the teams traded the next few points, junior middle-hitter Cynda Derbort spiked a Sara Noe set to give Western a 13-7 edge. The thunderous kill prompted a timeout from Evansville coach Mark Hathaway.

Out of the stoppage, the Lady Toppers maintained their lead, and built upon it with key kills from Cecil, freshman hitter Crystal Towler and Noe. Western staked a 25-16 lead and Hathaway called another huddle.

But the Purple Aces didn’t get within seven points of the Lady Toppers, as Western closed out the first game 30-22.

Neither team took control of the second game until sophomore middle hitter Amanda Schiff’s kill gave Western a 13-8 advantage. After an Evansville error, Hathaway took his third timeout to try to stop the bleeding.

The Lady Toppers only gained momentum, taking a nine-point lead on a kill from freshman outside hitter Jessie Wagner.

A frustrated Hathaway used his fourth timeout with Western ahead 23-13. Again it was to no avail. Western limited Evansville to only four more points and cruised to a 30-17 win.

Between the second and third games, Hudson asked for more emotion from his lethargic team.

Although the Lady Toppers never trailed in the third game, they couldn’t deal the deathblow to a spunky group of Purple Aces.??

After opening a 13-7 advantage, Western let Evansville back into the game and saw its lead trimmed to four.

The Lady Toppers responded with a 4-0 run that gave them a 17-9 advantage. They seemed poised to run away with the game, but the Purple Aces closed the gap again to 18-13.

Then, like a heavyweight fight, the Lady Toppers landed a strong punch – a crushing spike from Wagner.

It helped the Lady Toppers overcome a late surge that saw Evansville close to within three, and Western escaped with a 30-27 victory and the match. Despite the sweep, Hudson knew the game was much closer than it should have been.

“I think we are emotionally spent,” said a visibly exhausted Hudson. “We are really feeling the effects of playing 13 of 15 games on the road.? Tomorrow, the team will get a much-needed day off.”

Western did get some good news from injured sophomore and Evansville native Lyndsey Broerman, though.? She’ll be on crutches for the next six weeks, but hopes to be ready for the end of the season. She was originally thought to be out for the season after surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus.

“I’m hoping to at least be back by conference tournament time,” Broerman said.

But for now, the other Lady Toppers will rest and get ready to hit the road for the fourth consecutive weekend to play in the Dayton Flyer Classic Friday and Saturday. Western will play key matches against top-tier programs Virginia and Dayton.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]