WKU ‘weathers storm’ in sweep of UALR

Austin Lanter

The Lady Topper volleyball team was in a fight early but pulled away to earn its eighth sweep in a row, defeating Arkansas-Little Rock 3-0 at Diddle Arena on Sunday.

With the win, WKU (24-5, 14-1 Sun Belt Conference) clinches the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament later this month and a share of the regular season title.

“It’s a great feeling,” sophomore middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp said. “It’s expected of us of some degree, but I just feel like it’s very reassuring to go in knowing you’re number one. It gives us confidence more than anything going into the tournament.”

The win was the first conference loss on the road for UALR (20-8, 12-4 SBC), currently No. 2 in the conference.

Neither team could break away in the first set until about halfway through. The two teams traded points the whole first half and were knotted at 13. After that, however, WKU used a 10-3 run to pull away and take the set 25-18.

The teams were tied 10 different times in the first set and the lead changed five times.

The Lady Trojans’ one-two punch of outside hitters, sophomore Sonja Milanovic and junior Edina Begic, combined for nine of the teams 12 kills in the first frame.

“Those two kids are probably number one and number two in the conference in terms of their offensive ability,” coach Travis Hudson said. “They’re just a load. They’re great players. They’re going to be a handful if we see them again in two weeks.

Five different Lady Toppers recorded multiple kills in the set as senior setter Melanie Stutsman recorded 12 assists.

The second set featured a nearly identical score as the Lady Toppers took the set 25-17 but it was not nearly as closely contested as the first. There were only three tie scores and two lead changes in the second set.

Hitting percentage for both teams was a big difference in the set as WKU hit .407 and held their opponents to a hitting percentage of only .188.

Langenkamp led the Lady Toppers in the set recording four kills in the frame, bringing her total to eight through two.

Begic hit her stride in the second set tallying eight kills for UALR.

WKU took control of the third set early and led throughout to take the set 25-15.

Sophomore outside hitter Haley Bodway led the Lady Toppers with 12 kills on the day. Langenkamp was right behind with 11 while Stutsman finished with 39 assists on the day.

Milanovic and Begic finished with 11 and 13 kills respectively and junior setter Marleen de Zoete had all 33 Trojans assists.

Stutsman thinks the close sets early will help the team going forward.

“It’s really comforting to know that our mental game is strong going in (to the tournament),” she said. “It’s good to know we’re mentally tougher now and that we can weather that storm and keep playing our game.”

WKU will be back in action Wednesday at home against Georgia State (9-20, 4-11 SBC).