Lady Toppers’ win gives freshmen chance to shine

Junior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore attacks during the third game of the Lady Toppers’ 3-0 win against Louisiana-Monroe in Diddle Arena Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010.

Emily Patton

Beating Sun Belt opponents in Diddle Arena is nothing new for the Lady Toppers, but this time they did it with a few new faces.

WKU (21-6, 10-1 Sun Belt Conference) secured a weekend sweep with a 3-0 (12-25, 15-25, 10-15) victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, allowing the older players to take a rest.

ULM (0-17, 0-9 Sun Belt) has now lost 17 consecutive games and nine straight in the conference under a new head coach.

Freshmen middle hitters Lindsay Spears and Janee’ Diggins combined for eight kills, contributing to middle hitter Tiffany Elmore’s upperclassmen effort of 13 kills.

“We feel like we don’t have anyone on our team that can’t play,” WKU Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “We know going into tournament time that anything can happen and does happen. We feel confident that these kids can step in and make plays for us.”

The Lady Toppers led from start to finish in the first set, earning a three-point lead after a kill by Elmore.

WKU exchanged the lead only twice the entire match.

The Lady Toppers built a 21-10 advantage in the first set, 17-8 in the second and 15-3 in the third before cruising to the sweep.

Diggins said a comfortable win gave WKU the opportunity to work on some things in a learning environment.

“It is really encouraging,” Diggins said. “I feel like (the team) shows so much leadership as they helped me through the game. The girls and the coach push me, and I feel like I am getting better every game.”

Elmore said watching the younger girls step in for playing time reminds her of her own start on the Hill.

“I love it just because I was there once in those shoes,” Elmore said. “You are always itching to go in.

“It is just great that they were able to get some experience, and if something down the line ever does happen, all of us including them are comfortable with them coming in.”

This combined force of young and old Lady Toppers finished with a .457 hitting percentage compared to ULM’s dismal .000 hitting percentage.

WKU leaves Diddle Arena after being at home the entire week to head to Denver, Colo., and Denton, Texas, to face conference opponents Denver and North Texas next weekend.

“We feel like we’ve done what we need to do, but we need to finish,” Hudson said. “If we want to entertain any idea of an at-large bid (to the NCAA tournament), we need to win out.”