Lady Toppers relying on past to improve present

Nick Bratcher

Experience suddenly holds a different meaning for the Lady Toppers.

WKU (23-22, 4-11 Sun Belt Conference) finds itself in a very familiar position, as it currently sits on the bubble of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in ninth place.

The top eight teams in the Sun Belt’s regular season advance to the postseason.

Head Coach Tyra Perry said the team remembers missing the tournament last season, dropping both games of a doubleheader to Middle Tennessee with the team needing just one win to earn a berth.

She said the team will try to gain more experience with late-season drama.

“Hopefully we’ll remember the past and learn from it and win earlier, so it doesn’t come down to the last game,” Perry said.

In 2010 the Lady Toppers finished in ninth place by 1.5 games to Middle Tennessee.

Now in 2011, the Lady Toppers reside in ninth place, just 1.5 games behind North Texas — not counting the Mean Green’s game Thursday night.

Sophomore Karavin Dew said that parallel applies pressure to make a change and avoid last season’s late tension.

“It’s not a good feeling,” she said. “Right now, we’re just trying to avoid that because we didn’t like the feeling last year, and we don’t want the freshmen to ever experience that.”

But not all of the Lady Toppers see last season as some ominous event to avoid at all costs.

Junior Amanda Walden said last year’s result drives the team for a more positive reason, because much of the team has never had the chance to compete in the postseason.

“On our whole team, only four of us have ever been to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, and I think that is the real motivation,” she said. “They want to go. They want to get to the tournament, and I think we’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”

What will it take for WKU to reach the postseason?

Dew said the team will need to learn from the apathy it showed last year.

“Last year we came out, even in the last game, and we were still like, ‘Oh well, maybe we’ll win — maybe,’” she said. “This year we’re going to leave everything out on the field.”

The Lady Toppers will have that opportunity this weekend as they host conference foe Louisiana-Monroe in a doubleheader at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, with the series finale at noon Saturday.

Their scheduled game at Middle Tennessee last Wednesday was postponed and re-slated for May 4.

Dew said explaining that work ethic to freshmen on the team has proven difficult, but that confidence is at an all-time high.

“We still have 100-percent confidence in ourselves,” she said. “If we win all nine games, we could even win conference, so we just have to take it one game at a time and make sure we play it like we should.”

Perry said she sees last season’s result as an unwanted strength if the Lady Toppers’ postseason hopes come down to the final game again.

“If it does come to that, hopefully we’ll have a little more drive to not be on the outside looking in,” she said.