Lady Tops end season 30-6 after an early exit from NCAA Tournament

Volleyball head coach Travis Hudson talks with members of the team after learning that they will compete against Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament in Champaign, Illinois. Alyssa Pointer/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

No. 25 WKU saw its eighth appearance in the NCAA tournament draw to a close in its early stages as the Lady Toppers lost in a sweep to Iowa State (19-9) in Champaign, Illinois on Friday. 

The match put an end to a 30-6 season that saw head coach Travis Hudson’s youngest team in program history (five freshman) win a league regular-season and tournament championship in its first year in Conference USA.

“Obviously a very disappointing ending to our season,” WKU Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “I think we picked a really bad time to play one of our poorest matches of the year, but certainly I think Iowa State had a lot to do with that. They’re a very good team, they keep a lot of pressure on you and they magnify your mistakes, and we certainly made a lot of those tonight. It was just a disappointing end, but congratulations to Iowa State. They’re a great program with great coaches, and good luck to them going forward.”

The Lady Topper offense was spearheaded by junior outside hitter Haley Bodway with nine kills against the Cyclones, followed by Senior middle hitter Heather Boyan’s eight and freshmanoutside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh’s seven.

Freshman Jessica Lucas continued to be a vital part of both the offense and defense, dishing out 28 assists and 13 digs.

Sophomore defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell’s 15 digs anchored the back row defensively, with Boyan also involved on the defensive side with six blocks.

For Iowa State, sophomore outside hitter Morgan Kuhrt led the team with a match-high 14 kills and 15 digs while junior defensive specialist Caitlin Nolan tabbed 15 digs as well.

The Cyclones hit .301 with 46 kills for the contest while WKU hit .138 with 36 kills.

The first set saw the score tied seven times with two lead changes. A 7-0 run from Iowa State put the score at 14-7 in the Cyclones favor. The Lady Toppers would bring it within five at 15-10, but would lose control of the frame with a final score of 25-13.

The second set saw service aces from Pajakowski and junior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp. After the scores were notched at 12 apiece, the Cyclones jumped out to a 21-15 lead, but WKU would battle back to make the score 22-20. Iowa State would finish off strong, though, ending the set 25-22.  

WKU was able to control the early part of the third set, leading 18-12. Iowa State cut the deficit to 20-19 before knotting it at 21 each. The Lady Toppers temporarily edged back ahead 23-21, but Iowa State capitalized on a kill and attack error finish off with a 26-24 win.

The loss brings Boyan and defensive specialist Mollie Pajakowski’s careers to a close. The two hold a career record of 121-20 with four league regular-season titles, three league tournament titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances.