Lady Toppers begin Sun Belt title defense

Elliott Pratt

The Lady Toppers believe the season is broken into three parts: non-conference, conference and postseason.  

At this point, they’ve completed a third of it.

This weekend’s home match-ups against Troy and South Alabama kick off part two of WKU’s quest to win back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships.

No. 24 WKU finished the “first part” of its season 14-3, with all three losses coming against other top 25 teams in the nation.

Now, every Sun Belt opponent will circle WKU on its schedule as a marquee conference game.

Junior defensive specialist Ashley Potts said it’s not enough that the team has cracked the top 25 mark.

“There’s no settling now,” Potts said. “We have to continue to improve that ranking by coming in and working hard every day and not take any team for granted.”

WKU finished its 2011 campaign No. 23 with a 31-4 record and a NCAA Tournament appearance. Unfortunately for the Lady Toppers their Tournament was cut short, as they were knocked out by Marquette in the first round.

The Lady Toppers finished 15-1 in Sun Belt competition last year, with their only loss coming from MTSU in Diddle Arena.  

WKU redeemed itself however in the conference tournament, where they captured their Sun Belt title by defeating the Blue Raiders.

Currently, WKU is the only team from the Sun Belt in the top 25.  

Friday night’s opponent Troy is second in the Sun Belt East Division with an 8-6 overall record. North Texas leads the West at 13-5.  

The Lady Toppers are clearly the better team on paper, something head coach Travis Hudson said his team “needs to embrace.”

“The reality is we’re the biggest match on everyone’s schedules,” Hudson said. “We’ve worked really hard to be where we are.”

In Hudson’s 18 years on the Hill, he has seen his share of ups and downs with WKU volleyball.

“I have an interesting perspective as a coach in that I’ve been on all sides of it,” Hudson said. “I’ve had teams at the bottom. I’ve been on teams in the middle, and I’ve been on teams that were at the top.

“I promise I would rather be dealing with these issues than ones in the past.”

The Lady Toppers will kick things off in Diddle Arena at 7 p.m. Friday against Troy, and at 1 p.m. Saturday against South Alabama.

Senior outside hitter Jordyn Skinner said targets sit squarely on WKU’s backs.

“We did all we could to put ourselves at an at-large bid,” Skinner said. “Now it’s time to start focusing on conference play. It’ll be fun to get started and see the end result.”

WKU is hoping that the end result of part two in 2012 will be similar to part two in 2011.