Lady Tops move to No. 22 with winning weekend

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

With another successful weekend under its belt, the Lady Topper volleyball team moved up in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll and in the Rating Percentage Index poll. 

WKU is now No. 22 in the nation according to the AVCA poll; it’s even higher at No. 19 in the RPI poll with a 19-2 overall record and an unblemished 6-0 record in Conference USA. 

In a battle of the unbeatens, WKU pulled away with a 3-1 win on Friday over the University of Texas at San Antonio (12-6, 4-1) in arguably the biggest C-USA matchup of the season.

“We just had to continue to adjust — slow the ball down so we can get a chance to defend,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “Good teams make runs, but it was huge to get that first set win.”

On Friday the Lady Toppers were matched against a team that was expected to challenge WKU for the championship this year. UTSA also presented a nationally recognized offensive player, junior outside hitter Dajana Boskovic, whom Hudson said the team did not have an answer for last year. 

In WKU’s lone C-USA loss last season, Boskociv had a game-high 17 kills with a .333 hitting percentage. 

This time, the Lady Tops came out of the gates swinging in front of a crowd of 1,587. 

The defense for the Hilltoppers kept Boskovic to just a .100 hitting percentage in the first set, and the story would stay the same for much of the night. The Lady Toppers, who sport a 13-game win streak after the weekend, were clicking on all cylinders Friday night. 

Senior outside hitter Haley Bodway tallied four kills on 5 attempts to rack up a .800 hitting percentage in the first set. 

“She played well all weekend long. People may not have understood why I hung in there with her so much when she was struggling the first part of the season,” Hudson said. “It was because I knew this kid was inside.” 

Hudson said Bodway can compete with any of the other outside hitters in the league. He added that if he can get her more regularly involved in the Lady Topper scheme, his team would be hard to beat. 

“Certainly we are benefitting from her playing very, very well right now,” Hudson said.  

Sophomore outside hitter Sydney Engle is also hitting her groove during what Hudson sees as an important time. 

“It really helped us immensely. The timing seems like when we’ve needed somebody different, somebody different has been ready,” Hudson said. 

This season the Lady Tops have seen senior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp and juniors Jessica Lucas and Alyssa Cavanaugh step up in big games. Hudson said this weekend, that inspiration came from a different place. 

“Sydney Engle was the kid this weekend that was just terrific,” Hudson said, adding that she is hitting .392 in conference play. 

Hudson spoke in early September about the difficulties Engle was having with finding a rhythm. He said the rest of his squad’s consistency has allowed her and other struggling players to find their form. 

“Again, Sydney is another kid you heard me talk about earlier in the season not being in a great rhythm,” Hudson said. “It seems like we have always been able to keep a few people in that rhythm, but it would be nice to get all five or six of them at one time to see what we could really be.”

Two Lady Toppers surpassed statistical milestones this past weekend. 

Junior defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell was named C-USA’s Defensive Player of the Week after recording her 1,000th career dig on Friday against UTSA.

In WKU’s 3-1 win on Sunday against Southern Mississippi, Langenkamp led the offensive attack and recorded her 1,000th career kill on the Hill.  

“That’s something that speaks to how hard [Langenkamp] has worked through her career here,” Hudson said. “My guess is if you asked her if she would ever get to 1,000 kills in college, she would say absolutely not, but it has been fun to watch her be productive at this level.”

The Lady Tops will be back in action this weekend with two away games starting with Charlotte on Friday and North Texas on Sunday.

“We can be a lot sharper offensively. Charlotte and North Texas, defensively, are two of the poorest teams in the league,” Hudson said, “so hopefully we can go in and be very good offensively against them.”

Be sure to check out Thursday’s issue for a preview of the weekend’s matchups.