WKU heads to Texas for the weekend

Senior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp (13) spikes the ball against freshman middle blocker Gabriela Martin (2) during WKU’s match against Florida Atlantic on Sunday, Oct. 25. The Lady Toppers won In three sets. Tyger Williams/Special to the Herald

Matthew Stewart

Head Coach Travis Hudson and the Lady Topper volleyball team are back on the road after another two sweeps in Diddle Arena last weekend. 

The squad was able to capture its 12th and 13th sweeps of the season with wins over UAB and Florida Atlantic. The Lady Toppers are currently No. 22 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Coaches Top 25 Poll and will be hitting the road this weekend riding a 17-game win streak. The team has not lost since early September. 

The Lady Tops saw their national ranking stay steady at No. 22 when the AVCA poll was released on Monday due to strength of schedule even though WKU has more wins than any other team in the Top 25 with 23. It is, in fact, the only AVCA Top 25 team with 20 or more wins this season 

“I’m not worried about that,” Hudson said. “We are just trying to go out and win games and stay in this hunt to win a championship.” 

The Lady Toppers have a long road trip down to Texas this weekend to face Rice in Houston on Saturday followed by a clash with the University of Texas at El Paso on Sunday.

The trip to Texas comes just five days before the Lady Tops will travel to Miami and Boca Raton, Florida, for clashes with Florida International and Florida Atlantic next week, but despite the impending travel, Hudson is focused on taking the rest of the schedule game by game. 

First off is Rice, a team Hudson said will definitely present a challenge to his squad.  

“Rice is one of the best teams in the league,” Hudson said. “Us in their building is going to be a big-time match for sure.” 

With a 16-8 overall record and a 7-2 record at home, the Owls have a tested team. Last year Rice took WKU to five sets in two battles, but WKU was able to prevail in both. 

Rice sophomore setter Madison McDaniel was named Conference USA Setter of the Week after recording 137 assists last week over 13 sets. McDaniel is currently ranked second in C-USA in assists per set with 10.62. 

The Owls are led offensively by McDaniels and redshirt junior outside hitter Leah Mikesky. Mikesky leads the Owls with 3.65 kills per set and 354 on the season. 

Defensively, sophomore middle blocker Portia Okafor has 111 total blocks this year and averages 1.19 per set. Senior libero Kimberly Vaio holds down the backcourt with 321 digs coming in at 3.82 per set. 

The second showdown of the weekend for the Lady Tops is with UTEP. The Miners have a C-USA recognized player coming into this weekend as well.

Junior libero Sarah Villa earned the nod for defensive player of the week on Monday after racking up 73 digs through three road games. This is Villa’s first time to grab the award during her career. 

With some big matches coming up on the road, Hudson tries to stay stress-free. 

“To be honest, I like to get out on the road and spend time with my seniors this late in the year just knowing we are wrapping it up with them,” Hudson said. “It’s some time that I won’t have with them for much longer.”

The Lady Toppers have their Halloween matchup with Rice on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in Houston and will take on the Miners of UTEP on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

“In order to be successful, we need to do the little things, and I think we are beginning to do that,” Hudson said.