WKU Tops the Sun Belt

WKU celebrates after winning the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Championship 3-0 against North Texas on Saturday Nov. 17, 2012 at Diddle Arena.

Elliott Pratt

History was made in Diddle Arena Saturday.

WKU wrapped up a complete sweep of the Sun Belt Conference and won its second straight league title with a sweep of North Texas (25-17, 25-19, 25-22).

WKU only dropped one set for the entirety of conference play.

The Lady Toppers looked to enter the third set and close out the match as was the trend for the year. But the Mean Green wasn’t leaving Diddle Arena without a fight.

The longest scoring streak in the third set was a 3-0 run triggered by back-to-back kills from senior Jordyn Skinner.

Coach Travis Hudson said the significance of this team’s accomplishments is unlike any throughout his 18-year career.

“It does mean a lot to me,” Hudson said. “I’ve been on quite a journey since I started here 18 years ago. We were 7-26 my first year, 298th in the country, and had about 10 people in Diddle Arena watching volleyball. For it to grow to what it has, all the kids that have ever played for me were flashing through my head at that moment at the end.

“This program has been built by a bunch of kids who have come here and believe in what we do. They believe in this place, they love each other and this university. It’s been a moment of reflection for me.”

Senior Sarah Rogers, who led the team with two service aces, said the experience of winning a championship in Diddle was special.

“It’s awesome, especially here,” Rogers said. “Just having the family, the support, looking up after we do the fight song is always a moment for me recognizing all the people who have supported us all through our four years.”

The Lady Toppers and the Mean Green battled close for part of the first set before a 4-0 run from WKU, capped by a Heather Boyan kill, forced a North Texas timeout.

WKU maintained a comfortable lead and looked to close the set out leading 24-13. UNT rallied to a 4-0 last minute run, but Skinner threw down the kill to win the set 25-17.

The late North Texas rally from set one carried over into the second frame as both teams kept the score tied for the beginning portion of the set. UNT scored a 3-0 run to take the lead from the Lady Toppers 11-9. A 7-2 scoring drive from WKU would put them back ahead by three later on. Haley Bodway scored the set point to win 25-19 giving the Lady Toppers a 2-0 lead at the break.

WKU found itself in a 2-0 hole before Paige Wessel put the team’s first points on the board in the set. As the teams exchanged leads throughout the set, the Lady Toppers gained just enough momentum to lead by two scores, 19-17 with Skinner’s back-to-back kills.

Bodway punched WKU’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament by scoring the match’s final point. She soon found herself at the bottom of a dog pile of Lady Toppers as streamers fell from the ceiling of Diddle.

Hudson said the team’s win streak and sweeps haven’t settled into him yet.

“When I hear those things, it’ll hit me later, I think,” Hudson said. “All year it has been about playing the next set and controlling what we can control. Those kinds of things are almost sneaking up on me because all year it’s been about how I could possibly make this group better.

“I’m as exhausted as I’ve ever been as a coach because I don’t want to short change this group of kids. They give me everything that have every day. All those accomplishments are something I’ll look at when it’s all said and done, but right now I’m just trying to get the most out of them.”

Wessel and Melanie Stutsman earned SBC All-Tournament honors, and Stutsman was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

The NCAA selection show will be November 25 at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.