Lady Toppers prepare for NCAA tournament after selection show party

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Freshman middle hitter Heather Boyan and her teammates celebrate at Buffalo Wild Wings Sunday as WKU’s name is called during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. The Lady Toppers will play Marquette in the first round Friday in Champaign, Ill.

Lucas Aulbach

WKU’s first-round NCAA Tournament matchup against Marquette was announced to roaring cheers on Sunday as the Lady Toppers celebrated the start of postseason play with a selection show viewing party at Buffalo Wild Wings.

The first-round match will take place in Champaign, Ill. — the site of the team’s first-round loss to Cincinnati in last year’s NCAA Tournament — at 4:30 p.m. Friday. 

If the Lady Toppers win, they will face either Central Michigan or Illinois, who was No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll for much of the year and is currently No. 1 in the ratings percentage index.

Head Coach Travis Hudson said the match against Marquette is a favorable draw for WKU.

“It’s a winnable first-round matchup, and I’ll take that,” he said. “If we go and play well, I think we’ll have a chance to win the match.”

Marquette (23-10) has faced two teams that the Lady Toppers played during the regular season, going 1-1 in two matches against Middle Tennessee State and 0-2 against Cincinnati. The Lady Toppers won two of three against MTSU, including the Sun Belt Conference championship, and lost their only match against Cincinnati.

Senior middle hitter Lindsay Williams said the Lady Toppers will learn more about their opponent before the match this week.

“I’m sure we’re going to get a lot of film on them this week and find out more about what we’re up against,” Williams said. “I’m just really excited about it. I think it’s going to be a great match.”

WKU comes into the tournament on a 10-match winning streak, including three wins in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, and is ranked No. 24 in the AVCA poll, the highest the school has ever been ranked and the first time WKU has been ranked in the Top 25.

Hudson said his team has looked good in its recent practices leading up to the tournament.

“The last couple of days in practice we’ve been spending time doing what we do and trying to stay in a rhythm and they’ve been two pretty good days coming back off Thanksgiving break,” he said. “We’re doing the things we do well and we’re looking forward to getting to Champaign.”

Buffalo Wild Wings was filled with the volleyball team’s supporters, who came to recognize a 31-3 season.

Attendees included WKU President Gary Ransdell and football Head Coach Willie Taggart, who joined Hudson in leading the crowd in singing WKU’s fight song during the Selection Show.

Taggart said the viewing party was an example of the community’s support of WKU athletics.

“This place was packed with volleyball fans,” Taggart said. “It goes to show the appreciation they have for a winning team and what they’ve done this year.”