WKU fights past Virginia in tournament

Austin Lanter

Earlier this week, coach Travis Hudson said he’s team should be ready for war this weekend and WKU’s first game of the WKU Invitational proved to be just that. 


The No. 21 Lady Toppers defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 3-1 to improve to 6-3 on the season while UVA dropped to 4-3. Each set of the four set match was decided by seven points or less. 


“When we’re behind we’ve been struggling with how to catch back up, so that’s what we’ve been working on,” senior outside hitter Paige Wessel said. “We’ve been working out when we’re down not giving up and if there’s a point still left on that scoreboard then we keep playing.”


In the early stages of the first set, the two teams played back and forth with neither team being able to fully break away. Later in the set Virginia took a 18-14 lead and extended the lead to 22-16. Just when it looked like the Cavaliers were pulling away, the Lady Topper offense came alive.


A kill by sophomore middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp, her only kill of the set, made it 22-17. After a Lady Topper block and two more points, WKU found itself within two points when Virginia scored again to go up 23-20. The Lady Toppers scored the next five points to end the set on a 9-1 run and win the first set 25-23.


“That was just a gutty win in that first game,” Hudson said. “I think I chalk that up to experience. Virginia has two or three young kids on the court and we climbed back in it a little bit and I think they got tight and it was important because if you lose game two then you’re down 2-0.”


WKU found itself down 18-14 again in the second set but was unable to overcome the deficit as the Cavaliers took the set 25-18. Junior setter Tori Janowski of Virginia led the Cavaliers in the second set with seven kills, giving her 10 for the game. Janowski finished with a match-high 19 kills.


Virginia’s hitting percentage jumped from .243 in the first set to .423 in the second while WKU’s fell slightly from .323 to .296. 


Senior setter Melanie Stutsman tallied 11 assists in each of the first two sets giving her 22 at the break. Sophomores outside hitters Haley Bodway and Rachel Engle led the team in kills through the first two sets recording seven and six respectively. 


Despite their hitting percentage going down again, this time to .241, the Lady Toppers connected on 13 kills in the third set as they took the set 25-19 and a 2-1 lead in the match. The set proved to be another close one as the teams were tied at 15 before WKU pulled away for the six point victory.


“In games one and two we put no pressure on them from the service line and they played in system,” Hudson said. “We were much more disruptive as the match went on.”




The last set played out much like the third in the sense that it was a close game with WKU prevailing by six in the end to win the match 3-1.


“I think mentally I had us prepared for a long, competitive match,” Hudson said. “Virginia was definitely tough tonight. They’re a much improved team and we’re glad to get the win.”


The Lady Topper defense was strong Friday night as they recorded nine blocks on the evening to Virginia’s four. 


Stutsman finished the game with 44 of the teams 51 assists while Bodway recorded 11 kills and Potts had 17 digs to lead the team. Langenkamp and Wessel each chipped in with 10 kills a piece.


WKU will face the Ohio Bobcats Saturday at 11 a.m. in the second game of the WKU Invitational. The Lady Toppers defeated Ohio (6-1) last year in the Kentucky Classic in Lexington 3-1 after dropping the first set. Later in the day at 7 p.m. WKU will be facing off against the Rebels from UNLV (3-4) for the first time in school history. Ohio defeated UNLV Friday night in straight sets.