WKU volleyball played host to and won the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational this past weekend, highlighted by a 3-2 Lady Topper victory over No. 8 Purdue (8-1) on Friday night.
Purdue came into the contest undefeated in matches and sets on the season, but left Diddle Arena as the highest-ranked opponent the Lady Toppers have ever defeated.
The Lady Toppers (10-2) got off to a strong start by taking a 2-0 lead in front of more than 1,100 fans with scores of 29-27 and 25-20.
WKU struggled to keep that momentum through the next two sets, however, as the Boilermakers tied it up at two sets apiece with scores of 25-21 and 25-13, setting up the deciding fifth frame.
“At the beginning of the fifth set, I challenged them,” WKU Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “All I said was ‘I want you to be the more emotional, more aggressive team, and if that’s not enough, then we will congratulate them on a great comeback on the road – because they will deserve it – but let’s make sure they have to earn it.’”
WKU would lead the vast majority of the fifth set – which is played to 15 – and although the Boilermakers cut it close, the Lady Toppers captured the set by a score of 16-14.
The win marks the fourth time in the last three seasons that WKU has knocked off a top-25 opponent.
“I’m just really, really happy for our kids,” Hudson said. “After 20 years, I have been in this situation, I have been in big matches, and I just really enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching our young kids compete at a high level in an atmosphere that they deserve.”
Junior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp set the tone offensively for the Lady Toppers with 13 kills at a .464 hitting mark. She recorded no errors in the match.
“When we were up 2-0, honestly, I told them to expect a five-set match,” Hudson said. “There is no way the No. 8 team in the country is just going to go away. I told them if they can do it in three then prove me wrong, but otherwise just keep making plays – we will like where we end up.”
Senior middle hitter Heather Boyan, junior outside hitter Haley Bodway and freshman outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh each tallied nine kills.
“That was such a great win,” Cavanaugh said. “We came out with so much energy, everyone stuck to their assignments, and we got the job done.”
Freshman Jessica Lucas notched a double-double with 44 assists and 10 digs. She also contributed seven kills and four blocks.
The Lady Toppers finished off their weekend extending their win streak that currently sits at nine with a 3-1 win over Austin Peay (3-8) and a sweep of Western Michigan (5-4) on Saturday.
“This whole week coach told us that the most important game of the weekend was going to be (against Austin Peay),” Boyan said. “Because of having to play a competitive game against Purdue and then come right back out the next morning and stay as competitive.”
The Lady Toppers struggled initially with Austin Peay, dropping the first set, but WKU didn’t flinch from then on, taking three straight sets for the 3-1 win. The scores were 23-25, 25-21, 25-21, and 25-18, respectively.
The Lady Toppers put the cherry on top of their weekend with a sweep of Western Michigan later that afternoon with scores of 25-16, 25-16 and 25-21.
“It was just a total team effort this entire weekend,” Boyan said. “We really utilized all the parts of our team well, and I’m really proud of how we played the whole time.”
Langenkamp was in top form all weekend, grabbing tournament MVP honors after she posted 35 kills with a .367 hitting mark and 14 blocks.
Junior outside hitter Rachel Engle was named to the All-Tournament team after notching 31 digs, 14 kills and four service aces.
The Lady Toppers’ Harlie Bryant was named an honorary all-tournament team member.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” Hudson said. “Not because we are 10-2; because we come out and compete every night. That’s all I can ever ask for. If they keep doing that, we will keep getting better. I don’t care what the record says.”