Lady Toppers gunning for one more Sun Belt title

Senior+middle+hitter+Lindsay+Williams+and+the+rest+of+the+WKU%0Avolleyball+team+are+in+Miami+this+weekend+for+the+Sun+Belt%0AConference+Tournament.+The+Lady+Toppers+are+the+tournament%27s+No.+1%0Aseed.%0A

Senior middle hitter Lindsay Williams and the rest of the WKU volleyball team are in Miami this weekend for the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The Lady Toppers are the tournament’s No. 1 seed.

Lucas Aulbach

After winning the Sun Belt Conference’s regular season championship last Friday, the Lady Toppers are right back in the mix for another title — this time the conference tournament.

WKU (28-3 regular season, 15-1 Sun Belt) is in the second day of the Sun Belt Conference tournament in Miami to determine which team gets an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

In its first match on Thursday, WKU topped Troy for the third time this season.

Head Coach Travis Hudson said by winning the regular season title last week with a win over Middle Tennessee State, the Lady Toppers have already won the more difficult of the two conference games.

“I’ve said it many times, but I think it’s much harder to win a regular season championship than it is to win the tournament,” he said. “For the tournament, you have to be good for three days. To win a regular season championship, you’ve got to be good for two months.”

While he thinks WKU is in a good position to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Hudson said the Lady Toppers are still motivated to be outright conference champions.

“We just want to get greedy at this point,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position to do all of the things that we want to do. Winning the regular season championship was only the first big goal.”

WKU is playing for its first conference tournament championship since 2008. The Lady Toppers made it to the championship game last season before being ousted by MTSU and earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Lady Toppers secured the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament last Friday by beating MTSU, which earned the No. 2 seed.

Sophomore setter Melanie Stutsman said the role of conference frontrunner is nothing new for WKU this season, so the Lady Toppers are prepared to handle the higher expectations.

“It’s the tournament, so we’re going to see teams at their best,” she said. “But we’ve had a target on our back all year so it doesn’t really feel any different than it’s been.”

Sophomore defensive specialist Ashley Potts said the biggest benefit of the No. 1 seed is having a relatively easy path to the conference title match on Saturday.

WKU faces the winner of No. 4 seed FIU and No. 5 seed Denver in the semifinals on at 7:30 p.m. Frida. FIU and Denver’s match occurred after press time.

If WKU makes it to the championship match, the Lady Toppers play at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It definitely gives us a great matchup against the other teams and we’re pretty confident about our side of the bracket,” Potts said. “We’re up against teams we’ve been able to handle so far.”

Hudson said the Lady Toppers have played their best volleyball of the season in the past month and they should be in good shape in the tournament if they can keep it up.

“I think we’ll see everybody’s best,” he said. “But all we can hope is that we give them Western Kentucky’s best and if we do that I think we’ll like the outcome.”