Volleyball notebook: Lady Toppers ready for No. 2 Stanford

Elliott Pratt

STANFORD, Calif. — The Lady Toppers had about 30 minutes to celebrate their first NCAA Tournament win last night. Immediately following the sweep over Loyola Marymount, the Lady Toppers filed into the stands to watch one set of the Stanford vs. Jackson State match.

One set was just enough for coach Travis Hudson to understand this could be the biggest test WKU has faced all year.

“When you think college volleyball, you think about Stanford,” Hudson told his team Friday night. “Talent wise, they probably have a couple of Olympians on that team.”

WKU and Stanford meet at 9 p.m. CT Saturday in Palo Alto.

If WKU wants to have a shot at an upset, Jordyn Skinner will probably have to play much like the night before.

Skinner shows out

Skinner realizes that each game could be her last ever. Against LMU, the senior played every second like it was her finale.

She went off on the night with 14 kills on a .414 hitting percentage and led the team with three service aces.

Skinner said that knowing it could have potentially been her final game of her career served as her main motivation.

“We’ve been (to the tournament) two times before and haven’t won either of those,” Skinner said. “I just wanted it to be really special with me being a senior and possibly my last time on the court.”

Hudson said there wasn’t a better player in the entire tournament than Skinner was Friday night.

“This kid affected this match in every single way,” Hudson said. “She was terrific offensively. She controlled parts of this match from the service line when points were hard to come by. Somebody may have put up more kills, but nobody was better for their team in the NCAA Tournament tonight than Jordyn Skinner.”

Skinner recorded back-to-back blocks in the second set that sparked a defensive controlled second set.

Dominating Defense

The WKU defense lagged behind to begin the match against LMU.

Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Ashley Potts, who has averaged 4.69 digs per set, only recorded one in the opening frame.

“We knew that we started out a little slow,” Potts said. “The first game was one of our sloppiest but we knew we had to play better to beat a really good Loyola Marymount team.”

Playing “better” may be an understatement to the defensive clinic of the second set.

Potts showed out with seven kills while the team out blocked the Lions 7-2.

“We kept telling ourselves to play it one point at a time and as a one point match,” Potts said. “We were competing in the moment and not by the score. By the end of the game, Sarah Rogers looked at me and said ‘I didn’t even know that was game point’.”

In set two alone, freshman Noelle Langenkamp camped at the net with five blocks while Haley Bodway sent back four.

Potts finished the match with 11 digs while Rachel Engle followed with six. WKU finished the match with 13 team blocks.

Scouting Stanford

WKU will enter the Maples Pavilion to face the home team in Stanford as a huge underdog. But the Cardinal and the Lady Toppers have a lot in common.

Both teams head into the match with only three losses. Stanford’s most recent defeat came at the hands of conference rival USC in Los Angeles. WKU’s previous loss came in early September to Ohio State in the WKU Tournament at Diddle Arena.

No. 1 Penn State has defeated both Stanford and WKU this season.

Hudson said his team’s tough early season schedule should show results when they hit the floor against Stanford.

“I think tonight is when we reap the benefits from playing the schedule we played,” Hudson said. “I think it’s impossible to replicate the physicality of Stanford and having been on the floor with Penn State we have seen that. I think it’s going to help our kids out early on in the match.”

For two straight weeks this year, Stanford was voted unanimously as the No. 1 team in the coaches’ poll, receiving all 60 first-place votes.

While the Lady Toppers have played their toughest schedule this year, Stanford has matched it. The Cardinals played 13 regular-season matches against teams ranked in the preseason poll.

Hudson said the two teams have share similar traits.

“We’re both very good offensive teams and we’re both extremely balanced,” Hudson said. “We’re both low error teams in terms of hitting errors. I think the biggest difference is their level of physicality. They’re a big athletic team and that’s what stands out the most.”

Stanford hasn’t lost a game in the Maples Pavilion since last year’s tournament loss to Michigan. The Lady Toppers look to change that trend tonight when they take on the Cardinal.