WKU set for NCAA Tournament opener

Sophomore middle hitter Heather Boyan hits the ball against North Texas. WKU won the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Championship 3-0 against North Texas on Saturday Nov. 17, 2012 at Diddle Arena.

Elliott Pratt

When WKU and Loyola Marymount step on the Maples Pavilion court at 7:30 p.m. CT Friday to open the NCAA Tournament, the two opposing coaches will have opposite game plans.

Lady Topper coach Travis Hudson said when looking at film on LMU, “it’s like looking in a mirror.”

“They do a lot of the things that we do,” Hudson said. “They’re balanced.

“They have a big-time outside hitter, but they’re still very balanced, and system-wise it’s not a whole lot different that what we do. I guess that’s a little easier for us to prepare but a little easier for them to prepare as well.”

However, LMU coach Tom Black doesn’t share Hudson’s thoughts on the game, played in Palo Alto, Calif., and hosted by Stanford.

“I think we’re very different,” Black said. “Our systems are very different.

“Our defensive systems are different, but I did see that we have a similar type of set up in our middle hitters. They really buy into what (Hudson) wants them to do, and they’ve obviously had some success with it.”

The winner of that match will play at 9 p.m. CT Saturday against the winner of No. 2 Stanford and Jackson State.

Hudson said the fact that LMU (18-12) comes from the competitive West Coast Conference should give the Lions confidence heading into the match.

“One of the differences is in their league, you’ll look at their record and think they’re a marginal team, but they’re in a league that sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament this year,” Hudson said. “They’re going to be battle-tested, and they’ve seen high-level play everyday, and that won’t be something that worries them.”

When preparing for WKU (32-3), Black said the Lady Topper’s No. 17 ranking never phased his team.

“We honestly haven’t even talked about that,” Black said. “We know they’re good. Everyone in the tournament is good and deserves to be there. We’re not surprised at all that they’re a really good team.”

Both teams are dealing with lengthy travels for the game.

LMU drives six hours from Los Angeles to Palo Alto, while the Lady Toppers spent several hours in an airplane Wednesday flying thousands of miles west.

 In an effort for his team to avoid jet lag, Hudson’s WKU squad left early Wednesday morning to adjust to the two-hour set back.

“If you arrive at seven or eight o’clock out there, you think that’s a decent arrival time, but that’s 11 o’clock here,” Hudson said. “We need our team to have the opportunity to kind of get their feet under them and be ready to play.”

Black sees no advantage to his team traveling within the state while the Lady Toppers have flown cross-country.

“I think they’re going to come ready to play,” Black said. “I know they’re going to be excited to play over here. I think they’re going to focused and ready to play like you would expect any team to be.”

Hudson said the key for the Lady Toppers is to stay focused on their own game and not overlook LMU.

“I think one of the real big keys is just us sustaining a real high-level of play,” Hudson said. “That’s probably a big of a concern as I have because they’ve been forced to over the last several months, and we forced ourselves too at times. I think that’ll be an interesting situation the way that plays out.”