Lady Tops take care of business in Diddle

WKU’s defensive specialist Kaelin Grimes (17) digs a ball to the setter during the Lady Toppers’ 3-1 win over UTSA on Friday at Diddle Arena.

Matthew Stewart

The Lady Topper volleyball team (23-2) came out of another weekend of Conference USA play unscathed.

With two sweeps against the University of Alabama, Birmingham and No. 2 conference team Florida Atlantic, the Lady Toppers are on a 17-game winning streak — their best start to a season since 2005.

WKU’s first opponent this weekend was UAB.

The Lady Tops’ defense and heavy hitting paved the way for WKU’s 16th consecutive win of the season and 13th sweep.

“Truly, it’s not something I think about a lot, but when somebody says it, that’s pretty incredible,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “We are just trying to continue to get better, and it has kind of turned in to a 16-game win streak, which is pretty incredible.”

The hitter duo of senior Noelle Langenkamp and sophomore Sydney Engle set the pace for a well-balanced offensive attack and added to the team’s .422 hitting clip.

Sydney Engle tallied a solid .667 hitting percentage from seven kills off nine attacks while Langenkamp earned seven kills of her own on the night.

Freshman Rachel Anderson added six.

“It feels like I can help the team a lot more when I’m playing the way I am,” said Sydney Engle. “It feels good to be back where I was this spring in terms of my game.”

Sophomore setter Jessica Lucas recorded a match-high 29 assists while also throwing down five kills to match a season-high .500 hitting percentage.

“I thought Jessica was really good tonight,” said Hudson. “She was offensive early on, and it really freed things up for everybody.”

WKU finished with eight blocks throughout the contest and held UAB to a marginal .036 hitting percentage on the night.

Senior Haley Bodway led the team with a season-high four blocks. Sophomore Alyssa Cavanaugh added two solo blocks for the Lady Tops.

Sophomore Jackie Scott took command of digs and led the way with nine while junior Kaelin Grimes chipped in eight of her own for WKU.

“We played well,” Hudson said. “UAB obviously has been struggling somewhat. But they have some scary pieces. In matches like this, you have to continue to play well. I feel like we got better as every set went by.”

For all of C-USA volleyball — let alone the Lady Toppers — the weekend’s marquee event was WKU’s match against Florida Atlantic on Sunday at Diddle Arena in a clash of No. 1 versus No. 2.

Hudson had expressed concern about Florida Atlantic back in the preseason.

“FAU matches up against us very well,” Hudson said. “I think out of all the teams in the league, they match up with us probably the best.”

The Lady Toppers came out hot and swept the Lady Owls in three sets.

The sweep over Florida Atlantic marked WKU’s 14th of the season and stretched its winning streak to 17 games.

“We are playing pretty well right now. We are really starting to see the benefits of the practice time we have gotten this past week,” Hudson said. “We are starting to handle the ball better. I’m really excited for where we are.”

Cavanaugh and Langenkamp laid down eight kills respectively while the rest of the Lady Topper offense was well balanced.

“Noelle has put together really a fantastic senior year. All year long, she has stepped up and made big plays when we needed them,” Hudson said.

WKU ended with 40 kills on the day: Bodway chipped in seven, Sydney Engle and Anderson each added six and Lucas contributed four.

“Rachel Anderson is a star in the making; she is a big-time talent. She has had the ups and downs that all freshmen have, but I wouldn’t trade that kid for anybody,” Hudson said.

Anderson led the pack with her on-target hitting and came away with a .400 hitting clip.

Senior Rachel Engle ended with a new record next to her name on Sunday afternoon with a career-high five service aces.

Junior Georgia O’Connell also added a pair of aces for WKU.

“We have such good balance on our team. It makes it hard for the other teams because we have so many different weapons. It is good for us to be playing like we are now,” said Langenkamp.

Once again, the Lady Topper defense kept the opponents at bay, and Florida Atlantic finished with just a .060 hitting percentage.

Lucas and Rachel Engle each ended with 10 digs as O’Connell added seven. The Lady Tops finished with six total team blocks; Langenkamp led the charge as she blocked two.

WKU volleyball will be back on the court this weekend with a pair of away games: Rice first followed by the University of Texas at El Paso.