Learning on the Fly: Langenkamp improves with second year of experience

Middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp (13) spikes the ball past middle blocker Alannah Cullum (17) during WKU’s 3-1 victory over the University of Louisiana Monroe Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, at E. A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

Lucas Aulbach

One offseason of disciplined training can distinguish good players from great athletes. This year, Lady Topper sophomore middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp seeks to prove that to opponents.

Though little more than halfway through her sophomore season with WKU, Langenkamp has been an important part of the Lady Toppers’ lineup since she arrived in 2012. The middle hitter started in all 37 matches last season, and her 82 blocks helped her earn second-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors.

After hitting the gym last spring to improve her game, coach Travis Hudson said Lady Topper fans are starting to see Langenkamp’s potential.

“Her freshman year, she was the one learning on the fly,” Hudson said. “She hit .280 or whatever and now the year she’s hitting over .400 once we had some time to work with her. She’s a smart kid and she cares and she’s got great feel for the game and she’s got a very, very bright future.”

This spring was the first offseason Langenkamp spent practicing with the Lady Toppers.

She said her first season was more difficult because she was trying to adjust to her new teammates and the speed of the college game.

“This year, I had a spring (semester) and I think Travis Hudson is an awesome coach,” Langenkamp said. “He really just slowed things down for me because my first year was very fast. Everything is just slowing down for me, and it’s made it a lot easier for me to be effective for us.”

Langenkamp’s spring training seems to have paid off.

Last season, the middle hitter finished with 82 blocks and 196 kills in 110 total sets, with a .291 hitting percentage. Through 67 played sets this year, she has already picked up 204 kills — good for second on the team — and 55 blocks, all while hitting at .429.

The WKU offense ran through Langenkamp at times over the weekend. She recorded 14 kills and a team-leading four blocks against Louisiana-Monroe on Friday before posting 16 kills and six blocks — both game highs — in Sunday’s match at Louisiana-Lafayette.

While she remains one of the most important pieces of the Lady Topper offense, Hudson said those stats may surprise some people who notice her  low-key attitude on the court.

“I think she’s an incredibly misunderstood kid because she’s such a laid back kid that very often on the floor you might think, ‘Oh she’s just cruising,’ but that’s just her personality,” the coach said. “She’s a kid that cares a lot and has really improved.”

Senior defensive specialist Ashley Potts, who plays in the back row behind Langenkamp, said that while she may seem calm, Langenkamp brings a killer instinct to the Lady Topper front line.

“If she gets blocked, she wants the next ball and she’ll put it down right away,” Potts said. “I know she’ll get that kill.”