Lady Toppers beat MTSU for Sun Belt title


Senior middle hitter Lindsay Williams celebrates after scoring a point Friday during WKU’s 3-2 win over Middle Tennessee. The Lady Toppers came back from two sets down to win the Sun Belt Conference’s regular-season title.

Lucas Aulbach

Head Coach Travis Hudson said the revenge factor wasn’t motivating him coming into WKU’s match on Friday against Middle Tennessee State, a team the Lady Toppers hadn’t beaten since 2008.

The players, on the other hand, told a different story.

The Lady Toppers beat MTSU in a five-set thriller to win the Sun Belt Conference regular season title.

“It’s so rewarding for these kids because they’ve played so well all year long and they’ve had a monkey on their backs when it comes to Middle Tennessee,” Hudson said after the win on Friday.

Both teams came into the match 14-1 in the Sun Belt, with MTSU giving WKU (28-3, 15-1 Sun Belt Conference) its only conference loss and only home loss in October.

It looked like a flashback to earlier matches between the two teams after MTSU took the first two sets, but the Lady Toppers were able to come out and win the next three games to clinch the conference. 

It was the second time this season that WKU has come back from a two-set deficit to win. 

Junior outside hitter Jordyn Skinner, who led the Lady Toppers in the match with 20 kills and 13 digs, said losing those first two sets inspired them to step up during the next three sets.

“The first game we played really hard but couldn’t get a stop,” she said. “In the second game we played awful and kind of gave up, so I think those games kind of gave us motivation and play hard and come back the next three games and win.”

Hudson said the challenges they faced this season, like going 1-1 in their two other five-set matches this year, helped the Lady Toppers take their slow start in stride.

“This is a team that all year long has taken on every challenge,” he said. “We haven’t wavered all year when we’ve been in tough situations.”

The win answers many lingering questions about WKU’s ability to perform against its biggest rival. Aside from not logging a win against MTSU since 2008, WKU hadn’t won in Murfreesboro since 2006.

Senior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore was a freshman the last time the Lady Toppers beat MTSU and said the team had been striving to get this win for a long time.

“It’s always been that one that we want to get,” she said. “All the underclassmen are really excited to get that win so I’m just really happy. As a senior, that’s all you can ask for, to have all your teammates come out, play hard and get the win.”

The Lady Toppers won more than just the regular-season crown on Friday. By finishing the season with the best record in the conference, WKU clinched the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament, which starts this Thursday.

The top eight teams in the conference were invited to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which takes place this year at Florida International in Miami.

Hudson said he’s pleased with where his team is heading into the postseason.

“We’re regular-season champs, we’re 28-3, we’re excited about where we are,” he said. “We’ve just got to continue with this momentum and go down there, get greedy and try to get another championship.”