Volleyball team starts second half of SBC play with two wins

Austin Lanter

The Lady Toppers didn’t let a long road trip and quick turnaround stop them from capturing a pair of conference wins over the weekend.

WKU (20-5, 10-1 Sun Belt Conference) topped Louisiana-Monroe on the road on Friday before beating Arkansas State on Sunday at home. The Lady Toppers won each match 3-0.

With the pair of wins, WKU now holds a two-match lead in the conference with seven matches left in the season.

The Lady Toppers will play their next two matches on the road in Texas as they take on Texas State and Texas-Arlington. After that, the last five matches of the season will be in Diddle Arena.

“This week is going to be huge for us,” coach Travis Hudson said. “We have the Texas road swing this weekend and that’ll really decide things for us. We now have a clear two-game lead with seven to go. I like where we are.”

Two weeks ago WKU lost to Louisiana-Lafayette 3-2 on the road and since then, the team has gone 4-0, with all four of those wins coming in three sets. The two sweeps this weekend brought the team to 14 sweeps on the season, with nine of those coming in conference play.

Senior outside hitter Paige Wessel said the Lady Toppers have hit their stride since the loss.

“I think we’ve responded really well,” Wessel said. “We’re starting to pick up momentum. I think the loss kind of helped us gain reality of what we need to do to get better, and we’ve moved on from that.”

Over the course of the two weekend matches, senior setter Melanie Stutsman recorded 68 assists, senior defensive specialist Ashley Potts tallied 38 digs and junior middle hitter Heather Boyan led the team in kills with seven on Friday and 12 on Sunday.

“That’s another thing we’ve been working on is being more sharp offensively,” Boyan said. “When the passers are doing a great job and Mel (Stutsman) is dealing us up there, it’s great because we can just go up there and swing away.”

Defense has also been key for the Lady Toppers in their current four game winning streak. WKU has outhit their opponents .294 to .131 in those games. Against Arkansas State, the Lady Red Wolves recorded a -.138 hitting percentage in the first set.

“At practice, we focused on getting stops, and that includes blocking and floor defense,” Wessel said. “The number one way to stop someone is serving aggressive, and I think we served aggressive today (against ASU).”

Hudson said the second time through the conference schedule is tough. The team has faced all seven teams remaining on the schedule once this season with a record of 6-1 against them, the lone loss coming from ULL.

“As much as you don’t want them to, kids still have in their minds what it’s going to be like and it can be a totally different match-up,” he said. “What we shared in these two matches (against ULM and ASU) is a let-up in the third set, and that’s a really dangerous thing to do in this game.”

The Texas State (15-10, 5-5 SBC) match will be Friday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. with the Texas-Arlington (15-9, 8-3 SBC) game being played the next day at 3 p.m.