Lady Toppers all too familiar with postseason venue

Lady Toppers all too familiar with postseason venue

Lucas Aulbach

The Lady Toppers went 12-1 in matches at Diddle this season, and they’re hoping to bring some of that success this weekend to a site that’s become their postseason home.

When WKU takes on Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, it will be the third time in four years they’ve played postseason matches at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill.

Head Coach Travis Hudson said the University of Illinois, which is hosting the first and second rounds, provides a good environment for the tournament.

“It’s a great atmosphere for volleyball. They really support it there,” he said after practice on Monday. “It’s a little odd to be going there for the third time in four years but again, it’s a quality NCAA atmosphere and that’s all you can really ask for.”

The location provides some other benefits as well. Several of the Lady Toppers have family members in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan that are closer to to Champaign than Bowling Green.

“I don’t think our families are upset at all that we’re playing there,” Hudson said. “We recruit very midwestern, and this is certainly their direction and easier for them to get to.”

WKU hasn’t had much success there in the past, however, losing both postseason matches it’s played in Huff Hall. A win this Friday would be the first NCAA Tournament win for the Lady Toppers in school history.

Senior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore said the team is motivated by the chance to be the first team from WKU to get a tournament win.

“That’s any senior’s dream, is to get to the NCAA Tournament and having this chance,” she said. “One of our goals has been to advance in the NCAA and just having that chance to be the first team in school history to do that is just really exciting.”

Elmore may have a little extra motivation in Champaign. The senior tore her ACL against Cincinnati in Huff Hall in the first round of the tournament last season and had to go through months of physical rehab over the offseason to get back into playing shape.

Hudson said he doesn’t think Elmore will be affected by playing in Champaign for the first time since then.

“I’m sure it’ll run back through her mind when we get back in there but I think Tiffany’s story is a very positive one,” he said. “That’s a kid that tore her ACL on that very floor a year ago, and look at all she’s accomplished in the 12 months since then. I think it’s an inspiring story more than anything else.”

The Lady Toppers have three more days to prepare before Friday’s match at 4:30 p.m.

“We have to work in film work and of prepared for Marquette’s system in a short amount of time, and certainly we’re putting in hours doing that,” Hudson said. “I think we’ll be ready when the time comes, and I think our kids are excited about playing.”