Lady Toppers drop ‘if’ match to No. 23 Cincinnati

A dejected Emily Teegarden reacts to WKU’s 1-3 loss against Cincinnati at home in Diddle Arena, Tuesday, October 19, 2010. The Lady Toppers won the first set but then dropped three straight in their second home defeat of the season.

Emily Patton

WKU’s match Tuesday night was one Head Coach Travis Hudson described using a single word, and that was “if.”

If the Lady Toppers had beaten No. 23 Cincinnati, the they could’ve ended a seven-year losing streak to the Bearcats and essential guaranteed an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

But the “if” remained just that as WKU (19-6, 8-1 Sun Belt Conference) fell to No. 23 Cincinnati 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-24) in Diddle Arena.

Cincinnati (18-4, 8-0 Big East Conference) leads the all-time series with the Lady Toppers, 14-3, including nine straight victories dating back to 2003.

“It is very disappointing because our effort level gave us a chance every game,” Hudson said. “Then it came down to people being solid focus-wise, doing their job, making plays. At the end and we just didn’t have enough of that.”

WKU fought gamely in the first set with the Bearcats, exchanging the lead six times and tying the score 11 times. It was a kill by senior outside hitter Emily Teegarden that put into motion a six-point lead and allowed the Lady Toppers to pull away enough to secure the first set.

WKU then came back from an 11-point deficit in the second set to draw within three before the Bearcats went on to win, 25-20.

The score tied eight times in the third set and 15 more in the fourth, with Cincinnati coming out on top in both.

Teegarden said result was “disappointing” but showed the level of fight in the team.

“I trusted everyone around me,” she said. “Even when we were down 19-9, I was looking around, and no one had that look in their eyes that they have given up.”

The outside hitter from Nashville, Tenn., finished the night with 16 kills and a .214 hitting percentage, while her leading counterpart, sophomore middle hitter Jordyn Skinner, earned 11 kills.

The Bearcats’ two leading performers notched 11 more kills than Teegarden and Skinner to make the difference.

“This was a huge game for us,” Skinner said. “No, it doesn’t really matter in conference standings, but it matters to us. We should have won and we wanted to, so it is so hard to even know what to think now.”

Although Cincinnati is a non-conference opponent, it was the Bearcats’ top-25 ranking that made the Lady Toppers so determined to win.

“We had an opportunity that we didn’t take advantage of,” Hudson said. “You don’t get to make many mistakes between top-25 teams and we made too many. Everyone here tonight knows we belonged on that court with them.”

Hudson said playing against a high-ranked team like Cincinnati could raise flags to the NCAA and still possibly help earn WKU an at-large bid to the tournament.

“I think we are already a top-25-caliber team ourselves,” Hudson said. “Tonight we took a shot at a top-25 team, and it was a great shot. Our kids played really hard. But now we move on to the next challenge.”

The Lady Toppers stay home this weekend in matches against Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe in Diddle Arena.