Former starter Stuckel alleviating WKU’s service-error woes

Emily Patton

Eleven matches into the season, problems with serving continue to haunt WKU. But lucky for the Lady Toppers, there’s a solution.

As each match plays out, junior setter Lauren Stuckel rotates in and out of the lineup exclusively to serve, often delivering an ace to the opponent’s side of the net and then waiting her turn to strike once again.

While others are struggling with serving technique, Stuckel struggles to grasp the idea of its difficulty.

“I don’t see what is so hard about it,” Stuckel said. “I’ve become the most consistent server on the team. I just think serving is one of my talents to the game of volleyball. I just get angry at something, and it really helps me. I hit the ball harder. It is something that drives me.”

In the last four matches WKU (8-3) has played, the number of service errors has outweighed the number of aces by 18.

“There’s been problems with serving all season long,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “There are a lot of mental hurdles that our young team needs to be able to get through, and serving is one of them.”

But Stuckel is trying to stem WKU’s service-error tide.

“We practice and practice every day at it to make it become not an issue anymore,” Stuckel said. “If I can get an ace and try to get the setter off the net as much as possible, it will give my team the advantage.”

Last year, Stuckel ranked second in service aces with 44, finishing only behind now-graduated Lindsey Gould.

Stuckel’s ability to serve has helped her find pride in her place on the team after losing her starting setter position from last year to freshman Melanie Stutsman.

But watching Stuckel continue to serve well, Hudson often uses the word pride over and over again.

“When Travis does talk about pride after the game in the locker room, he points to me every time,” Stuckel said. “We need to take pride in it — pride in knowing that if you put palm to target every time with that ball, you are going to get an ace.”

This pride is something that her teammates already on the floor, such as sophomore middle hitter Paige Wessel, acknowledge each time Stuckel rotates in to serve.

“It helps us win games,” Wessel said. “It takes a load off our shoulders when I see her come in to serve. She works on it every day. I know she can do it.”

The Lady Toppers will be awaiting Stuckel’s rotation into the action this weekend at the Billiken Invitational in St. Louis — as will she.

Stuckel has lived in the same house her whole life in Belleville, Ill., just minutes from St. Louis. This weekend’s tournament offers an opportunity for her to serve to old competitors, teammates and friends when the Lady Toppers finish the tournament with a Sunday match against St. Louis.

“It’s all more motivation to win this weekend,” Stuckel said. “And serving is what will make that happen.”

WKU faces Marshall at 4:30 p.m. Friday before playing Lipscomb at 12 p.m. and St. Louis at 7 p.m. Saturday.