By Chad Richards, Contributing Writer
After a tough start, the West Liberty women’s volleyball team earned a split at this past weekend’s MEC/PSAC Crossover at the ASRC, managing to knock off two Atlantic Region teams on their way to MEC conference play this weekend.
The tournament marked the first multiple-day stand on home courts and first home games for head coach Kayla Mull’s Lady Toppers since dropping a 1-3 decision to IUP on Sept. 5 at the ASRC. The weekend started for West Liberty with a match against a recent foe in the University of Pitt-Johnstown. The Mountain Cats took the first two sets 25-20 and 25-13. The Lady Toppers looked to take the third set and stay alive, but UPJ rallied to take the final set and match 27-25.
Stephanie Leonard had seven kills and four blocks while Freshman Kendall Souder put in 13 assists and Kailee Cunningham added 17 digs.
The Lady Toppers were able to get a big win to close the day by handing Slippery Rock their second loss of the season in a five-set thriller that evening. The Rock took the first set 25-20, but West Liberty responded by taking the next two, 25-21 and 26-24. Slippery Rock managed to stay alive with a 25-16 fourth set to force the decider; but it was all West Liberty in the last set as they took it and the match 15-10.
Raimey Benson paced the Lady Toppers offense with 15 kills with Olivia Baumhoer adding 10 kills and Stephanie Leonard putting in nine more. Sydney Scherer and Morgan Farley both put in eight kills each. Souder earned her first double-double with 34 assists and 17 digs with Renee Lemke coming close to a double-double of her own, with 19 assists and nine digs. Cunningham led all players with 35 digs.
That would end the evening and set the scene for the second day of the tournament, where West Liberty would end up winning another big match against an Atlantic Regional Tournament team from last year in Shippensburg. The Red Raiders took a quick first set 25-16 but then the Lady Toppers took over the match with back-to-back 25-21 sets and a 25-22 fourth set to take the win.
Caitlin Clarke got a double-double with a team high 12 kills and 15 digs. Benson added in 10 kills and four blocks with Scherer also contributing seven kills and a match-high six blocks. Souder and Lemke added 21 and 17 assists with Cunningham again leading all players in digs with 25.
The final match of the day, and the tournament, was not the outcome the Lady Toppers wanted. They were swept by Clarion 25-23, 25-19, 25-15. With the weekend’s action now over, the Lady Toppers sat at 7-6 with MEC action just around the corner.
After a Tuesday match at Salem International University, the Lady Toppers will open MEC play on the road with a Friday game against Fairmont State, who currently sits in third in the MEC standings, with a record of 7-4. The Lady Toppers split the two regular season meetings with the Falcons, with a 0-3 loss and a 3-1 win. They will stay on the road and take on the current top of the MEC, Shepherd, who holds a 9-2 record. West Liberty took both matches last season, with a 3-1 win and a 3-2 win.
Be sure to support the Lady Toppers next weekend and throughout the season and be sure to read the Trumpet for recaps and previews of all the games this season.
Photo credit: Hilltoppersports.com