WKU escapes close call over weekend to make it 12 straight wins

During Friday night’s game against UALR, WKU’s Lindsay Williams hits the ball across the net as Paige Gantar attempts to block. 

Lucas Aulbach

After dropping the first two sets to Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday night, it would have been easy for the Lady Toppers to come into the third set down emotionally. 

But a vote of confidence in the locker room from Head Coach Travis Hudson erased any of that and the Lady Toppers (15-1, 2-0) came from behind to defeat UALR in five sets.

“The thing that you’ll hear from talking to any of my players is [that]I believed that we would come back and win that match,” Hudson said. “Every break was going against us, and sometimes you have to overcome that and not let it frustrate you.”

WKU followed that up on Saturday with a sweep of Arkansas State to extend its winning streak to 12 matches.

Like Hudson, junior defensive specialist Sarah Rogers said it was a matter of believing.

“Travis came in to the locker room and said, ‘You know I believe, and I want all of you all to believe,’” Rogers said. “We all just said, ‘We got this. We need three wins in three more games,’ and sure enough, we got them.”

WKU had momentum coming into Friday’s match. A loss would have given the Lady Toppers an 0-1 start in the conference and snapped their 10-match winning streak.

Losing to 5-9 UALR would have been a major bump in the road for a team that climbed all the way up to No. 29 in the country this past week — the highest ranking in school history.

Hudson warned that conference play presents a different set of challenges that non-conference matches don’t. He said WKU fell behind because of UALR’s high level of play early, with the Trojans recording a .615 hitting percentage and no errors in the first set.

“This was not a case of us playing that poorly. It was a case of Little Rock playing extremely well,” he said. “I wanted our kids to embrace that challenge and overcome that.”

Junior outside hitter Jordyn Skinner said WKU responded well to falling behind early.

“They were swinging at everything. They came out ready to play,” she said. “I don’t think we didn’t come out ready, we just had to come back and play our hardest to win.”

Hudson said while the comeback provided a great win, a loss wouldn’t have held the Lady Toppers back in the Sun Belt. He also said fans shouldn’t expect them to go undefeated.
“We can’t worry about one loss,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going 30-1 in the regular season, so we just have to worry about playing well every night and we’ll get enough wins along the way.”
Saturday’s match was a different story. After a fairly close first set, the Lady Toppers won the next two handily to improve to 2-0 in Sun Belt play.
Now that the weekend is over, Skinner said the Lady Toppers learned a lot about their team from their comeback win on Friday.
“Winning a five-game match always feels good, and to come back from two down and win three in a row feels even better,” she said. “I think overcoming that challenge is really going to help us down the road.”