Stutsman ties assist record, WKU takes regular season conference title in win

Setter Melanie Stutsman, right, celebrates after the Lady Toppers make it match point during WKU’s 3-0 victory over Georgia State Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

Lucas Aulbach

Senior setter Melanie Stutsman earned her place among Lady Topper greats Wednesday night as WKU rolled to a 3-0 sweep over Georgia State to clinch the Sun Belt Conference regular season title.

Stutsman recorded 39 assists in the match — that brings her all-time total to 5,172, tied for the most in WKU program history.

Stutsman, who said she didn’t know about the record until recently, joked after the game that she should have topped the record Wednesday night.

“I kind of wish Mollie (Pajakowski, junior defensive specialist) wouldn’t have jumped in front of me like five times at the end of the game but that’s okay,” she said with a laugh. “It feels really good. I never really expected anything like this to happen but it’s nice.”

WKU (25-5, 16-1 Sun Belt Conference) now has just two regular season games left, both at home, before the start of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Coach Travis Hudson said it’s been tough for his team to live up to their preseason expectations, but he’s proud of his players for capturing another Sun Belt title.

“This one’s been a struggle — it just has, you know?” he said. “There was so much expectation on this team and for a good portion of the year I haven’t felt like we played great, but here at the end of the day you look at it and we’ve had another phenomenal run through this thing.”

WKU roared out of the gate in the first set, rolling to a 25-15 victory behind five kills from senior outside hitter Paige Wessel and four from sophomore outside hitter Rachel Engle. The Lady Topper defense looked strong, holding GSU to a .088 hitting percentage in the set.

The second set was the closest affair of the night. The Lady Toppers took a 20-14 lead but let the Lady Panthers get back into it — WKU escaped with a 25-23 win.

The Lady Toppers saved their best for last, though. WKU rolled to a 14-5 early lead before closing the set with a 25- win.

Wessel led the Lady Topper offense for much of the night. She finished with a match-leading 11 kills along with no errors. Sophomore middle blocker Noelle Langenkamp added nine kills, while Engle finished with nine as well.

Senior defensive specialist Ashley Potts led the Lady Topper backline with 16 digs.

Hudson said it was encouraging to see the Lady Toppers get a win on what he thought was an off-night.

“Tonight wasn’t our best performance,” he said. “I don’t think our kids went out with a lot of energy, but yet again, we knew what had to be done and lo and behold, we’re 25-5 and another conference champion.”

The Lady Toppers will be back in action Friday at 7 p.m. against South Alabama in Diddle Arena.