Lady Toppers head east for weekend tourney

Elliott Pratt

WKU is coming off two consecutive shutouts of Ohio Valley Conference teams, one coming in an electrifying home opener against Austin Peay on Tuesday in Diddle Arena.  

But if the Lady Toppers want to move their record over .500 for the year, they’ll have to make a statement at the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup this weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

WKU is scheduled to play tournament host Virginia at 6 p.m. Friday, Delaware at 10 a.m. Saturday at 10 a.m. and Lehigh at 4 the same day.

Coach Travis Hudson said this is a “really, really important weekend” for WKU.

“The next two tournaments both have two top 25 teams in them,” Hudson said. “This weekend is a tournament that if we play well I believe we’ll have a chance to win.”

Despite losses in its first two games, the team has all the confidence it needs now, defensive specialist Ashley Potts said.

“We were definitely motivated,” Potts said. “We know that those were two great teams (Louisville and Penn State) to start out with but we were ready to get back in the gym and work on what we needed to.”

Friday night, the Lady Toppers will face a Cavalier squad entering their home court 1-2 after the Rocky Mountain Invite in Colorado.  

Virginia first year head coach Dennis Hohenshelt said in his weekly “Coaches’ Corner” that “Western Kentucky has been tested early and will be ready to play” his Cavalier team.

While WKU had an early exit in the 2011 NCAA Tournament at the hands of Marquette, its Saturday morning opponent, Delaware, advanced to the second round before being put out by Penn State.

Delaware, the two-time defending Colonial Athletic Association champions, will enter the tournament having not won a set yet this season.  The 0-2 Blue Hens are coming off of losses to San Diego State and No. 17 California.

The Lehigh Lady Mountain Eagles just started their season with a home opening win versus Rider 3-1. Lehigh wrapped up its 2011 campaign 19-10.

The Lady Mountain Eagles will be led by outside-hitter Jade Van Streepen, who had 15 kills and 11 digs in four sets in their win against Rider.

 Taylor Poole is middle blocker that also will be bringing a threat to the Lady Toppers, as she accounted for 14 kills, four digs, and one block.  

Hudson said that if the team wants to leave the tournament successful, that the middle blockers must play well.

“We still have to handle the ball better,” Hudson said. “We need to get Melanie Stutsman — even though she’s distributing the ball well — more a part of our offense, and we have to continue to work with our middles.

“If we see us in three weeks and our middle play is really good, I think you’re going to see good results from us.”

The Lady Toppers will need to make the most of this weekend before their trip to Cincinnati Tuesday night.

“The challenge is going to be there,” Hudson said. “We certainly feel like this a tournament that we can win and we need to go down there and play well to give us a little bit of cushion.”