Lady Tops outlast UAB on Halloween night, 3-1

Freshman middle hitter Sydney Engle, left, and junior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp block an attempted kill by Marshall outside hitter Cassie Weaver. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

It was all treat and no trick for WKU volleyball on Halloween night, as the Lady Toppers dished out a 3-1(25-27, 25-18, 25-23, 25-21) win at UAB.

Defense propelled the Lady Toppers (23-5, 11-1) to victory this weekend for Head Coach Travis Hudson’s young squad that is traditionally led by its offense.

Sophomore defensive specialist Kaelin Grimes tabbed a career-high 17 digs on the match while fellow sophomore defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell added 14.

“That was the best performance we have seen from Kaelin Grimes all season,” Hudson said. “She really came out and was a rock for us on defense in a night where honestly, we struggled.”

Junior outside hitter Rachel Engle nabbed another nine digs, while freshman setter Jessica Lucas totaled eight. WKU allotted 71 digs to UAB’s 54.

It was business as usual for the Lady Topper offense, too.

Lucas dished out 45 assists to bring WKU’s kill total to 60, despite being barely outhit by UAB .221-.220.

Three Lady Toppers recorded double digit kills this weekend, led by junior outside hitter Haley Bodway with 15. Senior middle hitter Heather Boyan and freshman outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh each mustered 10 kills.

UAB did everything they could to slow the pace of WKU’s offense, and found marginal success, notching 11 blocks as opposed to WKU’s five.

After leading a majority of the first set, WKU struggled late and dropped it, 27-25. Up 24-19, UAB rattled five-straight to knot it at 24 each, capitalizing on five WKU miscues. UAB would grab two more points to seal the win. 

“We really struggled offensively this week, which is very uncharacteristic of our team,” Hudson said. “We had a tremendous amount of unforced errors, and that really held us down the whole night.

“In the first set we were up 20-19, and they came back and beat us without getting a single kill for the rest of the match. The rest of their points were unforced errors from us.”

In the second set, WKU still hit below its usual hitting percentage at .190, but was able to hold UAB to a .079 mark in part by Rachel Engle’s six digs. UAB got within one at 9-8, but WKU opened the lead to 16-10 after back-to-back blocks on its way to claiming the set, 25-18.

It was neck-and-neck in the third set, as the score was tied at 13 different points in the match. The Lady Toppers came out of a WKU timeout to capitalize on multiple UAB miscues to pull ahead 22-20 before a Bodway kill sealed the set at 25-23.

WKU led UAB for the vast majority of the fourth set. Five kills from Bodway and four from junior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp helped the Lady Toppers to a 25-21 win.

WKU hits the road this weekend for a match at Southern Miss on Friday before closing out its regular-season road schedule at Marshall on Sunday.

“Hopefully, we can just get recharged and get our legs back under us,” Hudson said of the few matches left before conference tournament time. “If we play well, everything else will take care of itself.”