Defensive WKU volleyball team off to 3-0 start

WKU senior Lindsay Williams reaches for a block Saturday against Belmount Bruins sophomore Jen Myer in the third set of the teams’ match at the Curb Event Center in Nashville. The Lady Toppers ran their record to 3-0 on the season with a pair of wins, the other against Murray State.

Brad Stephens

Strong offense has long been the trademark of Head Coach Travis Hudson’s WKU teams.

The Lady Tops were sixth in the nation offensively one year ago, but were unable to get past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

After judging tape of his team’s games against Top 50 opponents during the 2010 season, Hudson put an emphasis on improving the WKU defense this year.

“In those Top 50 matches we still hit .248 and that’s got to be enough to win,” Hudson said. “But opponents were hitting over .300 in those same matches.

“If we’re going to improve as a program we have to do it on the defensive side and we’ve really addressed that.”

Senior middle hitter Lindsay Williams said the Lady Tops’ practices have focused more on the defensive areas of the game.

“It’s been an attitude of, ‘okay guys, let’s get a block, let’s get a dig, let’s get an ace on them and not even let the ball get back over the net,’” Williams said.

The defensive preparation paid off for WKU over the weekend in Nashville at the Belmont Invitational.

The Lady Tops went 3-0 during the tournament, dropping just one combined set in wins over Sacramento State, Belmont and Murray State.

Making the weekend even more significant was the return of senior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the NCAA Tournament last season against Cincinnati.

Elmore performed especially well against Sacramento State, with 17 kills and a .607 attacking percentage.

After a weekend playing on the rehabilitated knee, Elmore said she is “good to go” for the rest of the season.

“It was a long recovery and just being back out and playing with my teammates, and not just watching on the sideline, is great,” she said.

Williams, who said the team was “devastated” by Elmore’s injury, agreed it was good to have the 6-foot-4 senior back.

“To have her back in this tournament when we didn’t know how she was going to be or how it was going to work out, to have her back and playing well is great,” Williams said.

Several other Lady Tops had strong performances over the weekend.

Sophomore setter Melanie Stutsman recorded 46 assists and sophomore outside hitter Paige Wessel had a .526 attacking percentage against Belmont.

Meanwhile Sarah Rogers, Jordyn Skinner and Ashley Potts all tallied double-digit digs against Murray State.

WKU will have another week of practices before taking the court this weekend at the Kentucky Classic in Lexington.

The Lady Tops will take on Kentucky at 6 p.m. Friday, then face Virginia Tech and Ohio on Saturday, at 12 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively.

Hudson said he wants to see his squad improve offensively between now and then.

“I don’t think our transition offense was very good,” he said. “Melanie can do better with some of her decision making, but it’s all things you expect this early in the year.

“Hopefully you can win some matches along the way when you’re trying to fix those things.”