Lady Toppers host weekend tournament

Elliott Pratt

WKU knocked a huge chip off of its shoulder Tuesday night when the volleyball team defeated Cincinnati 3-1 for the first time in 10 years.

The Lady Toppers move on to host their annual WKU Tournament this weekend, featuring No. 10 Dayton, No. 26 Ohio State, Tennessee Tech and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The Lady Toppers open the tournament against Tennessee Tech (1-5) at 1 p.m. on Friday in Diddle Arena.

Coach Travis Hudson said his team has to keep their mental focus heading into this game and not get caught up on what’s on paper.

“The toughest match mentally will be the Tennessee Tech match,” Hudson said. “When you’re lining up against the Daytons and the Ohio States of the world, and if you’re any kind of competitor, you’re going locked in and ready to play in those matches.

“Seasons are defined by taking care of business in the games you should win and then getting a few of the other ones along the way.”

Hudson said prior to the UC matchup that serving the ball

The Lady Toppers had a season-high 10 service aces in the win, which Hudson said “was the huge turn around” for them.

“Last year we had four aces and 23 errors,” Hudson said. “This year we had 10 aces and six errors, so we’re certainly serving the ball much better.”

Freshman Rachel Engle stepped up to serve for a season-high four service aces.

“I have a deep serve that really pushes up against them,” Engle said. “I just focused on aiming for the chest and serving deep to get them out of their system and then serve a short one to get depth involved to get them moving around.”

Offensively, WKU leads the Sun Belt Conference with a hitting percentage of .263 and is third in service aces averaging 1.37 per set.  

Defensively, the Lady Toppers are seventh in the league in digs averaging 14.56 per set, and fifth in the conference in blocks with a 2.06 per set average.

“We weren’t great defensively (Tuesday),” Hudson said. “We were really, really good offensively, and to be honest that’s not what is going to carry us long term.”

Junior outside hitter Janee’ Diggins threw down 12 kills on 24 attempts with one error, posting a .458 hitting percentage in the win versus Cincinnati.  

Diggins says the team will spend most of their mental focus on Tennessee Tech and IUPUI.

“We tend play to teams’ levels to how they look on paper,” Diggins said. “We really need to come on the court ready to play at our highest level.”

The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles are at the bottom of the Ohio Valley Conference, a league WKU is 2-0 against this season.  

Tennessee Tech comes in with a .143 hitting percentage and a 10.11 kills per set rate.  

The No. 10 Dayton Lady Flyers are ranked higher than ever in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll and are undefeated on the season.

The Lady Flyers have been ranked in the Top 25 for 49 consecutive weeks, dating back to November of 2009.  

The reigning Atlantic 10 champions and the Lady Toppers will play at 7 p.m. Friday.

The No. 26 Ohio State Lady Buckeyes enter the tournament with the highest overall hitting percentage of participating teams at .305. WKU will battle 5-1 Ohio State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The IUPUI Lady Jaguars come out of the Horizon League on a two game losing streak, but lead the tournament teams in digs, averaging 17.57 per set.

The Lady Toppers will take on IUPUI in the tournament finale at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.