Tough road ahead for Lady Topper volleyball team

WKU volleyball head coach Travis Hudson talks to his team before practice. Hudson has been the head coach of WKU for over 18 seasons and enters his 19th season as head coach.

Austin Lanter

After playing two teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top-25 poll over the weekend, the road doesn’t get any easier for the Lady Toppers in their second week of the season.

Tuesday night, the team will battle defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Belmont. The Lady Bears are also favored to win the conference this year.

WKU (2-1) will close out the weekend with two more games against top-25 teams.

Coach Travis Hudson said that the challenging schedule at the beginning of the season is necessary if WKU wants to be recognized on the national stage.

“We’re not getting a lot of help nationally playing in the Sun Belt Conference,” he said. “The RPI and everything is getting drug down. To put ourselves on the map nationally, we have to do it very early in the year.

“Are we ready to play this challenging of a schedule this early? Probably not, but it’s our only opportunity.”

The Lady Toppers opened the season over the weekend at the Mortar Board Premier at Purdue. WKU swept Alabama A&M in the tournament opener 3-0 before losing to Southern California, the No. 4 team in the NCAA.

However, the team was able to bounce back and defeat No. 16 Purdue on its home floor in five sets in its third game of the weekend. The game was the first five-set game for WKU since Sept. 14, 2012.

“It definitely tested us mentally, but I think it was a great eye opener for what the season will be,”  Ashley Potts, senior defensive specialist, said. “We have a lot to improve and that was only our first tournament, but we’re excited to see where we end up.”

Next up for the Lady Toppers is a game against Belmont, which will take place Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena. The Lady Bruins dropped two of its first three games this past weekend at an invitational tournament they hosted.

According to Hudson, Belmont is completely different from the teams WKU played this weekend, which is a good thing for his team.

“The teams we played this weekend are big, huge, physical, athletic teams and Belmont is a very athletic team in their own right, they’re just not as big physically,” Hudson said. “They come with a completely different style. They’re much quicker…They return everybody. I expect a significant challenge and I have tremendous respect for what they get done.”

This coming weekend WKU will be traveling to Tallahassee, Fla., for the Florida State tournament.

The first game of the tournament will be Friday at 10 a.m. against the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes. Last year, the two teams met in the WKU Invitational with OSU beating the Lady Toppers 3-1.

Game two of the tournament will be later that afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against Florida A&M with game three against the host Florida State, No. 18 in the country, on Saturday at 11 a.m.

“We’re really excited (for this weekend),” Potts said. “Our slogan is ‘one more’ and we just want to get one more game from each person, and one more point. We just want to play hard every game and we think the outcome will be in our favor.”