Denver, Colo. — Megan Argabright posted a match-high 21 kills, and Julia Noe recorded her fourth triple-double of the season with 11 kills, 54 assists and 12 digs as the two first-team all-Sun Belt Conference selections led the third-seeded Western Kentucky University volleyball team into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament semifinals with a 3-1 victory (30-32, 30-25, 30-24, 30-24) over the six seed New Orleans Thursday evening at Hamilton Gymnasium.
WKU improved to 26-7 on the year and will face No. 2-seed and tournament host Denver in the semifinals at approximately 8:30 p.m. (CST) on Friday. New Orleans ended its year with a 16-16 record.
“This was a good character check for us,” said Lady Topper head coach Travis Hudson. “We didn't play particularly well, but we certainly played hard, and our go-to players stepped up when we needed them to and were able to lead us to a victory.”
It was a match of first for WKU, as for the first time all season it came back to win a match after dropping the opening game. It was also the first time in four chances that the Lady Toppers have knocked off the Privateers in a Sun Belt Tournament match.
WKU led for a majority of game one, opening up an 18-13 lead midway through the contest on a kill from Noe. UNO battled back with a 5-1 run to get back within a point. The Lady Toppers were able to pull back out to a three-point lead on two occasions, but the Privateers fought back to tie the game at 28-28, but Argabright put down a kill to get WKU to game point. Back-to-back kills from Lindsey Boler and Lauren Loeffelholz gave New Orleans its first lead since 1-0. After a kill from Abbie Siljendahl again tied the score at 30-30, Kaley Hubbard and Dobrilla Kovacevic gave the Privateers a 32-30 come-from-behind win in the opener.
The Lady Toppers responded in game two with its best hitting percentage of the match as they finished at .341 and put down 20 kills. After falling behind 4-1 to open the game, WKU battled back and finally took the lead when a kill from Emily Teegarden made it 9-8. The Lady Toppers would not trail at any other point in the game, opening up a 14-10 lead after another kill from Argabright. UNO battled back to tie the game at 16-16, but kills from Argabright and Jenna Gideon sparked a 4-0 run to stretch the lead out to 20-16. New Orleans got as close as a point at 23-22, but 6-1 run by WKU stretched the lead out again as it were able to even the match with a 30-25 victory.
WKU put down 20 kills as a team again in game three, using a 5-0 run midway through the contest to pull out to a 21-14 lead. The Lady Toppers limited New Orleans to a match-low .091 hitting percentage in the process as they opened up a seven-point lead two more times late in the game en route to a 30-24 victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.
Looking to close things out in game four, the Lady Toppers found themselves in a game that saw seven lead changes and 20 ties. After WKU took a 16-14 lead on a Kelly Potts service ace, UNO fought back to the game at 17-17 after a lady Topper attack error. The teams would be evened up five more times, the last coming after a Lindsey Loyd kill pulled the Privateers into a 22-22 tie. A kill from Gideon on the next play, however, sparked a 6-0 Lady Topper run as they opened up a 28-22 lead on a kill from Aquila Orr. That proved to be the difference in the game as WKU was able to close out the match with a second straight 30-24 win.
Argabright added a .500 hitting percentage to go along with her fifth 20-plus kill match of the season. She also finished with seven total blocks on the night. Orr and Gideon also finished with nine kills each. Defensively, Kelly Hofmeyer posted a match-high 22 kills, while Potts added a career-high 10 digs. Boler paced UNO with 14 kills, and Kovacevic added 13 kills and 16 digs.