COLUMN: WKU volleyball team plays ‘uptight’ against MTSU

Brad Stephens

One day, somehow, WKU will have to get over that big blue hump.

The No. 26 Lady Toppers walked into Diddle Arena Tuesday with every reason to be confident against 6-9 Middle Tennessee State, riding a 14-match win streak and holding a 17-1 record.

WKU took a tough first set, 26-24, and it looked like business as usual for the Lady Toppers.

But after the Lady Raiders took set No. 2, something funny happened.

WKU tightened up.

Passes off target, miscommunications on defense, penalties, and a general sense of panic took over the team.

What resulted was MTSU dispatching of WKU with relative ease in the last two sets and notching its seventh straight win over the Lady Toppers.

It was a result that Lady Raider Head Coach Matt Peck said he didn’t quite understand.

“Western is uptight when they play us and I’m not exactly sure why,” Peck said. “I think they see that we’ve had a lot of success in the past but they’ve had equal amounts of success.”

Peck has a point.

The Lady Toppers aren’t just some run-of-the-mill Sun Belt Conference team.

WKU volleyball has won two of the last six league tournaments, has beaten quality non-conference competition this season and has likely been the best team on campus for the better part of the last decade.

But when the blue uniforms line up on the other side, suddenly that goes out the window.

Head Coach Travis Hudson also used the word “tight” to describe his team’s performance, saying the Lady Toppers made some mistakes Tuesday they don’t usually commit.

“The perplexing thing about tonight is we’re such a good passing team, and tonight we did not pass the ball well at all,” he said. “It’s something you almost take as a given with our ball control players and tonight that just wasn’t there.”

To be realistic, the win streak had to an end sometime.

Hudson came into Tuesday saying his team hadn’t been playing well over its past few matches, but that “they had been getting away with it.”

Tuesday’s match will likely serve as a wake-up call for WKU.

Hudson has proved throughout his tenure that he’s one of the best coaches around, and he’ll fix whatever he sees needs fixing.

It wouldn’t be a big surprise if the Lady Toppers rolled off another nice streak.

But WKU’s Sun Belt finale, a Nov. 11 date in Murfreesboro against those same Lady Raiders, hovers in the background.

“I told our team in the locker room we better be ready for them when they come to our place because they are going to pour it on,” Peck said.

WKU has more than a month to decide if it will prove Peck right.

Because no matter how many wins WKU picks up, those Lady Raiders will always loom large.