WKU sweeps Lafayette, will face FIU Friday


WKU players celebrate after scoring against Louisiana-Lafayette during the Sun Belt tournament on Thursday at MTSU. WKU beat Louisiana-Lafayette 3-0.

Emily Patton

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Outside hitter Emily Teegarden said she never thought Thursday would mark the last volleyball match of her college career.

It turns out Teegarden didn’t have anything to worry about.

No. 2 seed WKU (26-7, 14-2 Sun Belt Conference) swept No. 7 seed Louisiana-Lafayette 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-11) in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament at Alumni Memorial Gym.

“You start to realize that you’re in the conference tournament,” Teegarden said. “They were swinging so hard. We had to turn it on. It wasn’t going to be like when we played them at home.”

A loss would have sent the senior from Brentwood, Tenn., and her teammates home — a fate Head Coach Travis Hudson said he almost realized during Thursday’s second game.

“That was tailor-made for an upset,” Hudson said. “They were playing extremely aggressive, they were playing really well and they were really emotional. That is exactly the setting for a team to get rattled and get tight and let things get away from them.”

ULL (17-16, 7-9 Sun Belt) started Thursday’s game two with a 2-0 lead and forced the Lady Toppers into 14 ties and three lead changes.

WKU found itself down 24-23 before a kill by junior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore tied the match at 24 all. After back-to-back attack errors by the Ragin’ Cajuns, WKU took the game by a 26-24 score.

But Hudson said the Lady Toppers held their composure together mentally, and the final score of game two reflected that.

“I feel like the second game was a fluke,” Teegarden said. “I knew in the third game when it was back at 0-0, everyone was going to pick it up again.”

WKU did “pick it up,” earning a .398 team hitting percentage to tie a Sun Belt tournament record for hitting percentage in a three-game match. WKU set the original record against Central Florida in 1991.

The last time the Lady Toppers and Ragin’ Cajuns met, WKU swept ULL at Diddle Arena. Hudson said Thursday’s match was a completely different defensive battle.

“Lafayette decided by the way they were defending us that they were not going to let our middle hitters dominate the match like they did the last time we played them,” he said.

With middle hitters out of the equation, Hudson said that left the match up to both Teegarden and sophomore outside hitter Jordyn Skinner.

Skinner led the Lady Toppers with a season-high 16 kills and a .500 hitting percentage, while Teegarden finished the match with 11 kills and a .318 hitting percentage.

“Every game, we all went out there knowing we play for WKU and that we want to play hard, and we want to win,” Skinner said.

ULL was limited to a .242 hitting percentage and committed 16 hitting errors.

As Hudson watched the match that would determine WKU’s future second-round opponent between FIU and Denver, he said he would rather be playing Middle Tennessee next.

The next time WKU could face MTSU, which handed the Lady Toppers its only two conference losses, would be in the championship match on Saturday.

Defending tournament champion and No. 5 seed Florida International is WKU’s second-round opponent. The teams meet at 5 p.m. Friday.

“Tomorrow we are going to end up in some 25-23, 24-26 games,” Hudson said. “It is going to come down to finding that one point that swings it in your favor, and that is what we are going to try to do.”