Volleyball team prepares for conference play 

By Chad Richards, Contributing Writer

After a strong finish to an even stronger regular season, the Lady Toppers are ready to take on the Mountain East Conference tournament and postseason play.

While the football and basketball teams were busy at home this past Saturday, Head Volleyball Coach Kayla Fetsko Mull’s Lady Toppers finished their regular season on the road, sweeping West Virginia State. This was a great end to a season that started out strong on the road, but struggled both at home and in conference. They finish the regular season with an overall record of 22-13 and 10-6 in conference play. This is a major improvement over last year’s squad, which only saw them break even in conference play. 
The rest of the MEC finished up the season as well, and the Lady Toppers have found themselves in the number five seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The full standings in order are Wheeling Jesuit, Charleston, Fairmont State, Urbana, West Liberty, Concord, Notre Dame, and UVa-Wise. The tournament kicks off today at noon at Wheeling Jesuit University, with West Liberty matching up against Urbana at 5 p.m.
The Blue Knights of Urbana will be the first obstacle in the tournament, and one that the Lady Toppers are familiar with. They have played them twice this season, winning one at home (3-2) and losing the other on the road (0-3). Their last matchup was just over a week ago, so this is a team that is fresh in their minds. Look for strong performances on the other side of the net from Urbana’s Mikaela Beck, who led all players in kills in both games with 14 kills in the first match and 18 in the second. Katlynn Dunlap will be running things on the Blue Knights defense; she had 14 digs in the first match and 16 in the second. 
The Lady Toppers will also be looking to keep Alyssa Meyers under wraps; she had 26 assists in the first match and 49 in the second. To put that into perspective, the entire West Liberty team had only 23 assists in the first match. It will be a tough challenge to make it past the quarterfinals, but the Blue Knights will be facing some tough opposition.
The Lady Hilltoppers have a strong offensive and defensive response to the high scoring Urbana with six players having kills in the triple digits, and three scoring over 200 kills. Raimey Benson leads the team with 300 kills, and about 2.5 kills per set. Meanwhile, Kailee Cunningham leads the team on defense, with 607 digs at around 5.3 digs per set. But this team can “share the wealth” on defense as well as offense, with seven players having digs in the triple digits and four over 200. 
The Lady Toppers fell in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament, but look to move past that today at 5 p.m. Semifinals will be played on Friday and the tournament ends on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Photo credit: hilltoppersports.com.