WKU volleyball notches four wins over the weekend

Sophomore defensive specialist Kaelin Grimes digs the ball during WKU’s 3-0 win over Belmont on Tuesday, Sept. 2 in Diddle Arena in Bowling Green. Mike Clark/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

The WKU volleyball team is off to a 6-2 start for the season, after notching four wins this weekend at the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational in Springfield, Missouri.

The Lady Toppers have strung together five wins, securing a home-opening victory against Belmont a week ago and trumping University of the Incarnate Word, Missouri State University, Milwaukee and Oral Roberts University over the weekend.  

Senior Heather Boyan garnered tournament MVP honors, hitting .326 with 37 kills and 16 blocks.  

Freshman Jessica Lucas and sophomore Georgia O’Connell were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Lucas tabbed 146 assists on the weekend, while O’Connell tallied 63 digs.

The team struggled early in its first matchup against Incarnate Word, but with Lucas’ double-double, 30 assists and 18 digs, the Lady Toppers powered through three close sets for the sweep at 25-21, 25-18 and 25-20. The double-double was the first of Lucas’ career.

WKU would render the best hitting clip of .314 in the final frame and seal the sweep.

“We looked, in my opinion, weak last week against Belmont,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “And I think we looked really rough in the first game of the tournament against Incarnate Word. And, after surviving and getting that win, I think we were all a little concerned about how the rest of the weekend was going to be like.”

Lucas was left hungry for more and would spearhead the Lady Topper attack later that night against, host team, Missouri State, handing them a dominating sweep at 25-18, 25-14 and 25-18.

Lucas managed 40 assists in the contest, with the team totaling a .330 hitting percentage for the match. Junior Haley Bodway smashed a season-high 13 kills for a .500 hitting clip. O’Connell mustered up another attention-grabbing defensive display, this time with a career-high 21 digs.

“Friday night against Missouri State we really began to settle into our game, and luckily we were able to carry that on through the weekend,” Hudson said.

The two wins marked the end of the first day of competition for WKU, but they were back at it again on Saturday. First up was Milwaukee, who proved to be a true test when they broke the Lady Toppers’ 11-set winning streak.

The Lady Toppers pulled out a 3-1 win at 25-19, 26-24, 23-25 and 26-24, but it took a concerted team effort to pull it out, as WKU went into its first fourth set of the season.

With the extra set in place, four Lady Toppers found themselves with double-digit kills. Boyan led the squad with 14, followed by junior Noelle Langenkamp’s 13. Freshman Alyssa Cavanaugh had 12 and Bodway tallied 11.

Lucas and O’Connell lost no momentum from the previous days successes – Lucas managed a career-high 42 assists and O’Connell totaled 17 digs.

However, the team struggled with consistency.

“We track earned versus unearned points,” Hudson explained. “And we were just giving up an unacceptable amount of points that we had control over. So, we really tried to move into an individual direction – don’t think about what the team can do, but what each individual player can do. Once we did that, things really started to pick up.”

Oral Roberts was the last test for the young Lady Topper squad over the weekend. The Golden Eagles would prove to be worthy opponents, as they took the Lady Toppers into a fourth set – something that had not happened prior to Saturday.

The sweep was just points away, yet Oral Roberts slid past the Lady Toppers in the second set, 23-25. The final scores were 25-16, 23-25, 25-14 and 25-15.

It was another strong showing for the Lady Toppers in the hit category, as Boyan, Cavanaugh and Langenkamp had 11 kills apiece. Langenkamp hit at a .625 mark for the contest.

Lucas would finish out her impressive weekend adding 34 assists to her tally, and O’Connell remained solid in the back, with 17 digs.

Five Lady Toppers posted two or more blocks, with the team tallying a total of 12.

Boyan led the way with seven, including four solo blocks, while Langenkamp had four.

“I’m very happy we were able to go and win the tournament, but we still have so much to do,” Hudson said. “We have kind of identified how to get better, but if you look at our schedule, we have had very little practice time. Not until next week will we have a full week of practice. With that being said, I’m more focused on if our team is moving in the right direction than wins and losses, and I know our team is moving in the right direction.”