Lady Toppers face expected, dangerous FIU in second round

Junior middle hitter Lindsay Williams spikes against Louisiana-Lafayette during the Sun Belt Conference tournament Thursday at MTSU. WKU beat Louisiana-Lafayette 3-0.

Emily Patton

MURFREESBORO — The WKU Volleyball team learned after beating Louisiana-Lafayette in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament that its next opponent would be third-seeded Florida International on Friday.

Freshman defensive specialist Ashley Potts took it as no surprise that FIU earned a trip to the next round.

“We would have been shocked if FIU wouldn’t have won,” Potts said. “We pretty much knew going into their match who would be the winner.”

The defending Sun Belt champion, FIU (20-10, 12-4 Sun Belt Conference) dominated in a 3-0 (25-6, 25-14, 25-9) win over sixth-seeded Denver.

WKU (26-7, 14-2 Sun Belt) has defeated Florida International twice previously this season.

The first time the two teams met Oct. 2 in Diddle Arena, the Lady Toppers swept FIU. In their second meeting, WKU was forced to win the match in five sets.

In both matches, FIU played without sophomore outside hitter Jovana Bielica, who senior Kelly Potts said has been playing very well lately.

“It is going to be a completely different match than the last two times we played them because of her,” Kelly Potts said.

Even though Bielica has played in only 26 sets this year, it didn’t stop her from earning 17 kills and a .492 hitting percentage against Denver.

She was last season’s Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and helped the Panthers record a team hitting percentage of .563, which set an Sun Belt Championship single-match record.

WKU tied the record earlier in its match against Louisiana-Lafayette with a .398 hitting percentage.

After Thursday’s matches, Head Coach Travis Hudson said he would spend the night watching film before the Lady Toppers’ 5 p.m. Friday match

“I want us to be a supremely confident team all the time and a team that relishes a challenge,’ Hudson said.

On the other side of the bracket, Middle Tennessee will face North Texas on Friday. The winner of that match will face either WKU or FIU in the championship match on Saturday.

“Every time you step on the floor at the conference tournament, the challenge gets greater.