Miami, Fla. – The WKU volleyball team (26-9) captured its third ever Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Championship title by sweeping New Orleans (25-21 ,25-20 ,25-19) in the 2008 championship match on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Lady Toppers will earn the Sun Belt’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship and will head to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in school history and for the second consecutive year.
Three Lady Toppers, seniors Megan Argabright and Julia Noe and junior Abbie Siljendahl, were also named to the All-Tournament team with Argabright picking up the Most Valuable Player award.
With this year's volleyball tournament championship, WKU has now won 13 of the last 22 Sun Belt Conference championships the Hilltoppers have been eligible to win dating back to the 2007-08 school year. WKU won 10 total conference titles last year and have captured men's and women's cross country titles along with the volleyball tournament championship in 2008-09.
“We came into this tournament as the No. 6 seed on paper but I don’t believe that anyone in our locker room right now thought we were the sixth seed,” head coach Travis Hudson said. “These girls played with incredible confidence and composure this week and this has been a magical tournament for us.”
“After we won everyone was jumping up and down and there were definitely tears of joy,” Argabright said. “Coming in as the sixth seed we feel amazing that we were able to come in here and do something that no one believed we could. This is a great accomplishment for this team and emotions are high.”
In the first set, the Lady Toppers fell behind 2-0 before scoring their first point of the day off a kill by junior Aquila Orr. From there, WKU took its first lead of the set with the score tied at three after an error by New Orleans and a kill by junior Brittany Bowen. The Lady Toppers were able to hold on to a solid lead through eight points when the Privateers tied the set up off a block by Lindsey Loyd. But after regaining the lead, the Lady Toppers allowed New Orleans to stay in the match and eventually take a two point lead. Finally, with the score tied at 16, the Lady Toppers regained control of the set and would never fall behind again outscoring New Orleans by five points in the final minutes.
It was WKU who struck first in set two off an ace by junior Lindsey Gould. With the match tied much of the way, WKU took the lead off a kill by sophomore Emily Teegarden and went on to score the next four points in the match to extend its lead to four. The Lady Toppers finally were able to extend their lead to four midway through the set and then easily took a 2-0 lead in the match after dominating the court on both sides of the ball.
In the final set of the championship match, the Lady Toppers, once again, struck first off a kill by junior Aquila Orr. After UNO tied the set at one, WKU scored the next two points in the set to take a 3-1. The Lady Toppers, who had all the momentum in the match, kept New Orleans in check until the Privateers were able to tie the set back up at 15. But, WKU would never relinquish the lead and held on for an easy 25-19 win. WKU scored the match winning point off a block by Bowen and Siljendahl.
WKU was led in the match by Orr who posted ten kills and zero errors for an overall hitting percentage of .370. Bowen also had a spectacular day adding eight kills, four blocks and finishing with a hitting percentage of.389. Argabright added 12 kills to the Lady Toppers’ total and Noe tallied 33 assists in the match. Defensively, senior Kelly Hofmeyer paced the Lady Toppers posting 20 digs during the day.
Overall, the Lady Toppers racked up 42 kills in the match and finished with an overall hitting percentage of .255 for the day. In addition, WKU recorded 38 assists, two aces, 50 digs and eight total blocks. New Orleans finished the day posting 31 kills, 29 assists, four aces, 50 digs, eight blocks and a .111 hitting percentage.
“We are going to take a couple of days off and just let this championship soak in,” Argabright said. “After that we will get back to business and begin preparing to accomplish another one of our goals and that is advance in the NCAA Tournament. We are not going to take our spot in the NCAA Tournament lightly.”
The Lady Toppers will find out their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday, Nov. 30 when the NCAA Volleyball Tournament selection show airs on ESPNU.
“Right now we are just going to enjoy this accomplishment and celebrate,” Hudson said. “These young ladies have stood up to adversity this year and I am very proud of each and every one of them. After we celebrate this we will get ready to play in the NCAA Tournament and we feel like we have the opportunity to be very successful on the national stage.”