Lady Toppers beat Belmont in first home match

Austin Lanter

No. 16 Lady Topper volleyball team defeated Ohio Valley Conference preseason favorite Belmont 3-1 Tuesday in its first home game of the 2013 campaign.

The Lady Toppers dropped the first set to the Bruins 25-22, ending their streak of 30 straight sets won at home. The last time WKU lost a set at home before tonight was nearly one year ago on Sept. 8, 2012 in a 3-1 loss to Ohio State.

The win also keeps WKU undefeated against the Lady Bruins, sporting a perfect 15-0 record against the team from Nashville. Last year, the Lady Toppers beat Belmont in straight sets and battled a team this year that has every starter back from the 2012 season.

“Tonight I thought we were really tight,” coach Travis Hudson said. “It might have just been the first home game and the crowd, but I thought we were really out there worried, gosh we’re ranked, we’re supposed to (win). I just thought we were tight and didn’t execute very well.”

Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Engle said that Belmont came out strong and with nothing to lose.

“We’re ranked 16th and they wanted a piece of us,” she said. “I definitely think we may have come out a little slow but then we picked it up and started getting in our groove. We know next time we can’t take anything for granted and we need to just get it done.”

WKU was able to rebound from the first set and take set two by a score of 25-23.

In the third set, the Bruins went on a 9-0 run, but the Lady Toppers were able to respond and battle back to take a close set three 25-23 and take the 2-1 edge in the match.

“It’s kind of fun always coming back, but I don’t think we should have lost that first one (set),” senior defensive specialist Ashley Potts said. “We just gave a lot of unforced errors and they came out and played well. That’s all we can ask for.”

Potts also led the team in digs tonight with 13.

WKU carried that momentum with them into the fourth set going on a 10-0 run of their own. The run helped the Lady Toppers to a 25-9 set win as they took the match 3-1 to improve to 3-1 on the season while the Lady Bruins fell to 1-3.

Engle and senior outsider hitter Paige Wessel led the team in kills Tuesday with 12 a piece, a career best for Engle.

“It’s what she’s (Engle) been doing right for the last night months,” Hudson said. “Rachel’s a kid that has always been blessed with fun athleticism. If you don’t like watching that kid soar through the air, you’re missing something. She’s worked so hard.”

The recorded attendance for the game was 562 and it was an atmosphere that Hudson and the team enjoyed.”

“It (the crowd) was awesome man, it was needed,” Hudson said. “We got over that hump in game four and really started rolling and feeding off the crowd. But great student turnout. I can’t think the students enough. They’re the difference makers. Hopefully it’s something we’ll see again a week from tonight.”

WKU will travel to Tallahassee, Fla., this weekend for the Four Points by Sheraton Seminole Invitational hosted by Florida State. The team is slated to play No. 23 Ohio State, Florida A&M, and No. 15 Florida State in the tournament.