Lady Tops set to face Iowa State on Friday in Ames Regional

WKU Lady Topper Volleyball middle hitters Noelle Langenkamp (left) and Heather Boyan (middle) react in excitement after hearing that the team will play Iowa State in the NCAA volleyball tournament, during a watch party at 6-4-3 Sports Bar on Sunday. Alyssa Pointer/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

For the eighth time in school history, the Lady Toppers are headed to the big dance floor.

The No. 24-ranked WKU volleyball team will travel to Champaign, Illinois for a matchup with Iowa State in the Ames Regional on Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT.

Head Coach Travis Hudson and the program he built are no strangers to Champaign. WKU has made the trip to Illinois for NCAA postseason play three times — in 2008, 2010 and 2011. 

Iowa State (18-9) comes in as the lowest-rated of the five tournament teams to come out of the Big 12 conference. 

“The Big 12 is one of the premier conferences in the country,” Hudson. “They’re going to have big, great athletes. They have a history of success at Iowa State — they’ve done really, really well in the last decade in the sport of women’s volleyball. It’s going to be a great matchup, there’s no question about that. They’re going to be big, physical like every team is in the Big 12 Conference, so we are going to have our work cut out for us.”

The meeting will be the first between the Lady Toppers and Iowa State.

If WKU (30-5) is successful against Iowa State, the Lady Toppers will face the winner of Ohio Valley Conference Champion Murray State (26-5) and host school, No. 9 overall seed, Illinois (24-7).

Illinois is one of six Big 10 teams in the tournament, second only to the Pac-12 with a staggering 10 teams.

“We have to get through Iowa State first,” Hudson said when asked about the other teams in their bracket.

WKU punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 23 after winning the Conference USA Tournament with a 3-2 victory over Rice in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The Lady Toppers will enter the tournament riding an 11-game winning streak after clenching the Conference USA Championship with a 3-2 win over Rice.

Seniors C-USA tournament MVP Heather Boyan and Mollie Pajakowski will look to draw on their experiences from Stanford two seasons ago when the program last made an appearance at the big dance, advancing to the second round for the first time in program history with a win over Loyola Marymount.

“It is a great feeling,” Boyan said of finding out the team’s fate in the tournament. “I was really nervous the week leading up and I was really nervous right before we found out. It’s great to finally have someone to prepare for.”