Strong serving fuels WKU’s perfect Sun Belt start

Emily Patton

The service errors that have plagued the Lady Toppers since the beginning of the season disappeared last weekend.

In fact, it was service aces that gave WKU (13-4, 2-0 Sun Belt Conference) the advantage over their first conference opponents — Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock — on the road.

Against those teams, the Lady Toppers finished with a combined 11 aces and five errors — statistics that surprised Head Coach Travis Hudson, as it used to be the errors that outnumbered the aces.

WKU had 16 aces and 23 errors in the three matches at the Billiken Invitational last weekend.

“Our serving is what really carried us,” Hudson said. “Serving was outstanding all weekend. Serving has been a problem area for us, but if you look at the number of aces compared to the errors this time, it says a lot.”

Hudson said the sudden improvement on the serving front could be attributed to constant hours put in the gym to prepare for this first dose of Sun Belt competition.

“It’s a combination of more and more weeks in the gym — more and more time put into studying our competition. And our team continues to grow,” Hudson said.

Senior outside hitter Emily Teegarden, who led the offense with 10 kills and a team-high .444 hitting percentage against UALR, said strong serving helped relax the Lady Toppers.

“It is refreshing to know that the servers are going to go back there and do their jobs,” Teegarden said. “Even if they do miss, it is nice to know that it isn’t their third or fourth miss of the match. They were doing their jobs back there.”

After the weekend, the Lady Toppers lead the Sun Belt in winning percentage and have not dropped a set in five matches.

“We wanted to make the statement that we are the best team in the conference, and we are going to prove to everyone that we are,” Teegarden said.

Sophomore libero Sarah Rogers, who had service aces in back-to-back matches in Arkansas, said WKU came in with a different attitude for conference play.

“We knew that we needed to be in a different mindset,” Rogers said. “We came out just with that competitiveness and confidence. We really showed everyone what we can do.”

With seven more conference games in a row and a weekend at home, the Lady Toppers will enjoy their first full week of practice without travel since Sept. 10.

“This is the right start to get off to,” Hudson said. “Those were two really convincing wins on the road. We, as a staff, have to evaluate what we saw this weekend. We still have a lot of things we can get better at.”

But as Hudson reflects on the weekend, he will also keep looking forward.

“We are 2-0, and our main goal now is to get 3-0 right now,” Hudson said. “The sky is the limit with this group.”