WKU with two sweeps in front of home crowd

WKU senior Noelle Langenkamp (13) spikes the ball between a pair of Missouri State blockers during the Lady Toppers’ 2-3 loss on Friday at Diddle Arena. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

The Lady Topper volleyball team (8-2) took home another tournament win this weekend in the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational at home in Diddle Arena. 

After falling in the tournament’s first matchup against Missouri State 3-2, WKU bounced back with two wins in sweeping fashion against Northwestern and Furman to close out the weekend. 

The Lady Tops took a tough loss in the first match of the tournament, falling to MSU in five sets (25-18, 25-22, 20-25, 21-25, 9-15). 

WKU came out of the gate well, playing aggressively and winning the first two sets heading in to the break while throwing down a staggering 32 kills off 66 attacks. 

Missouri State came out of intermission with a vengeance, capturing the final three sets on the Lady Toppers’ home floor. WKU was only able to come up with 27 total kills with a .085 hitting percentage in the final three periods.

“It was a heartbreaking loss that we took. We were playing a really good team,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “Missouri State is a fantastic team. Teams like that don’t just go away. We’ve got to find a way to get in a rhythm offensively.”

Senior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp earned a career best 18 kills off a .438 hitting percentage. The only other Lady Topper to finish with double-digit kills was sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh with 10. 

Another Lady Topper was able to notch a career high coming on the defensive side. Junior libero Georgia O’Connell tallied 27 digs. 

“Missouri State is a really good team. They never gave up; they are a group of fighters,” O’Connell said. “It’s not like we played really bad (sic), and it was a fluke that they won. They played awesome, and they deserved to win.” 

Coming off what Hudson described as a heartbreaking loss, the Lady Tops headed into their second match of the day against a Big Ten foe: Northwestern. 

WKU was able to end the night on a high note, sweeping Northwestern in three sets (25-22, 27-25, 25-21) in a tight, hard-fought match. 

Cavanaugh had another solid showcase and put up a career-high 17 kills on a .351 hitting percentage. 

WKU finished the Holiday Inn Invitational with another three-set sweep (25-15, 25-15, 25-15) against Furman. 

The Lady Topper defense really set the stage for the rest of the team as they held Furman to an abysmal .012 hitting percentage. O’Connell led the defense with 12 digs. As a unit, the defense racked up four blocks.  

Langenkamp and O’Connell, along with sophomore setter Jessica Lucas, were named to the All-Invitational team. O’Connell pulled in an astonishing 60 digs on the weekend. 

Another bright spot for Hudson was the emergence of Sydney Engle, who has struggled to find her stride early in the season. Against MSU, she pulled in nine kills with a .316 hitting percentage—the third best on the squad.  

Against Northwestern, Engle led the team in hitting percentage with a .400 hitting clip with six kills.

“Sydney has had a rough week or two, and I am trying to get them all to understand that if they go out and execute what we do, then they will have a chance to be successful,” Hudson said. “Sydney did that in both matches [on Saturday] and consequently had good success in both.”

The Hilltoppers return to the court on Tuesday with a trip to Nashville to take on Belmont at 6 p.m.