Lady Toppers start final season in Sun Belt with two wins

Austin Lanter

The Lady Topper volleyball team began Sun Belt Conference play for the last time this weekend, the last season WKU will play in the conference before moving to Conference USA in 2014.

The team won both its games this weekend — a pair of sweeps — as the Lady Toppers moved to 12-4 on the season and started 2-0 in the conference.

They began their regular season championship title defense with a pair of games in Alabama against Troy (5-11, 0-2 Sun Belt Conference) and South Alabama (5-7, 0-2 SBC).

Friday night WKU made short work of Troy, defeating the home team 3-0 behind a double-double from senior setter Melanie Stutsman. The double-double — she had 14 digs and 38 of WKU’s 43 assists — was the second for Stutsman.

In the first set, the Lady Toppers recorded 19 kills with a hitting percentage of .400 to beat the Trojans 25-19. WKU would take the second and third sets, both by a score of 25-16, to win the match.

Freshman defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell said she was pleased with how the team performed, but she hoped to improve on how the team acts on the court.

“One of our weaknesses was probably just communication,” she said. “We would talk, but then we would get quiet.”

Sophomore outside hitter Haley Bodway led the Lady Toppers Friday night with 12 kills while senior outside hitter Paige Wessel tallied 10 for WKU.

The next day the Lady Toppers traveled to Mobile, Ala., to face South Alabama.

In the sweep it was the middle hitters — junior Heather Boyan and sophomore Noelle Langenkamp — that led the team to victory. Both hit over .600 for the match and combined for 26 kills with only three attack errors.

Stutsman had another strong outing for WKU as she recorded 44 assists, six kills and five digs. Senior defensive specialist Ashley Potts tallied another 11 digs while Boyan had four blocks.

“To be quite honest, we didn’t play that well, it was a little bit sloppy,” assistant coach Kristi Griffin said. “We’re just not playing clean volleyball. We were able to gut out the two wins which is always good, starting off the conference 2-0. We really need to clean it up moving forward.”

With the win, coach Travis Hudson earned his 200th career Sun Belt Conference win in his 19th year at the head of the Lady Toppers. Currently, Hudson holds a 200-58 career record in the Sun Belt which is good enough for a .775 winning percentage, the highest among all active Sun Belt coaches.

The win was also the sixth straight on the season for the Lady Toppers, as well as the 28th straight Sun Belt Conference win.

WKU will be back on the road for another Conference game Wednesday as they travel to Atlanta to face a league newcomer in Georgia State (5-11, 0-2). The Lady Toppers will then return home for two SBC matches against newcomers Texas State (12-5, 2-0) and UT-Arlington (9-6, 2-0) this weekend.

“I know Georgia State lost a tough one to a really good Little Rock team yesterday so they look to be pretty solid,” Griffin said. “Both the Texas teams went undefeated this past weekend. I know Texas State, looking at their pre-conference schedule, they played some really good teams and had some really good wins. We’re really going to need to play better than we did this past weekend.”