WKU shuts down nation’s top scorer in UALR sweep

Elliott Pratt

WKU faced its toughest match-up this weekend when it hosted the two first place teams from the Western division of the Sun Belt Conference.

But as the year has gone, the Lady Toppers had no trouble handling business as usual as WKU swept Arkansas-Little Rock in Diddle Arena Saturday (25-14, 25-14, 25-17).

Coach Travis Hudson was pleased with the defensive performance against two of the better offensive teams in the conference.

“We defended at a really high level,” Hudson said. “That’s really pleasing to see for me because that’s all we’ve worked on this week in practice.

“How we defended them was going to be the tale of the tape and when you look at what they’ve been able to do this season, our defense was pretty impressive.”

Much like the night before, freshmen Noelle Langenkamp got things rolling early for the Lady Toppers accounting for the first two points in the first set. 

UALR responded with a 6-1 run to put the Trojans on top of WKU for much of the opening half of the first set.

A service ace from junior Melanie Stutsman tied up the match and turned the momentum in WKU favor.

Two straight kills from middle hitter Heather Boyan extended the Lady Topper lead by two and set the tone for the rest of the match as WKU took the first set 25-14.

UALR struck first in the second set before Langenkamp would again set up the Lady Topper offensive tone.  The Trojans had the lead for only a short time at the beginning of the set, but stuck tight to the Lady Toppers on the scoreboard.  A 5-0 run from WKU extended the Lady Topper lead to 16-10 en route to an eventual 25-14 win.

Much was the same for the teams coming out of the half.  UALR used a 3 point run in the middle of the third set to tie with WKU at 11. 

The Lady Toppers ran away with the set with two service aces from Mollie Pajakowski during a 7-0 scoring spree.

Last minute efforts from UALR weren’t enough to end WKU’s winning streak as the Lady Toppers prevailed in the third set 25-17.

The Lady Topper defense successfully shut down the nation’s leading scorer in Edina Begic of the Trojans.  Begic has averaged 5.31 kills per set this season, but WKU held her to only two kills on a negative hitting percentage.

Junior Melanie Stutsman, who recorded a double-double in the match with 30 assists, a team-high 13 digs, said Begic’s past success on the Lady Toppers is what turned their attention to shutting her down.

“Our focus was to contain her,” Stutsman said. “We knew she was going to get her kills, but we couldn’t let her just go off because she had a lot of kills on us last year.”

Next for the Lady Toppers is a trip to the sunshine state to take on Florida International Friday at 5:30 and Florida Atlantic Saturday at noon.