WKU advances in Sun Belt Tournament

Junior setter Melanie Stutsman celebrates with teammate Haley Bodway after scoring a point against Florida International during the opening round of the Sun Belt Tournament. The Toppers are the number one seed in the tournament, which continues through the weekend at Diddle Arena.

Elliott Pratt

WKU carried over its regular season confidence into the first round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament as it defeated Florida International Thursday in Diddle Arena 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-19).

“We were really locked in tonight,” coach Travis Hudson said. “That’s something I’ve been worried about this week.

“I think it’s been hard on our kids because I don’t think they felt like this is the conference tournament because we didn’t travel.  We certainly had a good look about us tonight.”

WKU opened the match with a 4-0 lead early in the first set. The Lady Toppers ended the frame on a 6-0 run to win 25-12.

WKU shared the wealth offensively as Heather Boyan, Jordyn Skinner, Noelle Langenkamp and Haley Bodway each earned four kills in the first set.

FIU entered the second set with challenging energy for WKU, tying the game at five apiece early in the set. But the Lady Toppers pieced together an impressive 8-1 run to take control of the second set.  WKU ended the set on a 10-2 run to take a 2-0 match lead at intermission after a 25-12 second frame win.

Junior setter Melanie Stutsman tossed up 31 assists in the first half while recording nine digs. The Lady Topper defense held the Panther attack to a negative hitting percentage in the second set, while WKU averaged a .374 percentage in the half.

The Panthers fired out of the gates after halftime by setting up a 4-0 run early in the third set to lead WKU 6-3. Back-to-back kills from Langenkamp tied the score at eight, and a Skinner kill gave the Lady Toppers the lead 9-8.

Following an FIU timeout, three straight kills from the Lady Toppers set the tone for what would be another sweep in Diddle, as WKU took the third and final set 25-19.

Stutsman finished the evening with a double-double after tossing up 46 assists and posting 12 digs.

Boyan and Langenkamp led the team with 13 kills apiece.  

“I thought we served the ball really well, and that translated to blocking,” Langenkamp said. “I thought we were on point for the entire game.”

WKU will play in round two of the tournament Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Lady Toppers will play the winner of the match between Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock, which ended after the Herald’s press deadline.