DeKalb, Ill. — The Western Kentucky University volleyball team finished off an undefeated opening weekend to the 2007 season with a 3-0 sweep (30-23, 30-27, 30-28) over Indiana Sunday morning to capture the championship at the Northern Illinois Invitational.
The Lady Toppers (3-0) posted a team hitting percentage over .300 for the third straight match, finishing at .364. Junior setter Julia Noe had a career day offensively as she set new career highs for kills (12) and attempts (15). She also hit .800 — the second-best single-match hitting percentage in school history — to go along with 36 assists. Noe was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and joined senior middle hitter Jenna Gideon and junior libero Kelly Hofmeyer on the all-tournament team.
Gideon and Megan Argabright joined Noe in double figures with 11 kills each. Hofmeyer added a match-high 14 digs to lead the WKU defense. Erica Short led the Hoosiers with 10 kills.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with this weekend,” said Lady Topper head coach Travis Hudson. “We beat some quality teams to win this tournament. All the credit goes to (WKU Director of Athletics) Dr. (Wood) Selig for getting our team in summer school in July, and giving them a chance to get on the court together over the summer. There is no way we would have been ready to compete at his high of a level this early if that had not occurred.”
The Lady Toppers hit a season-best .520 in the opening game, while limiting the Hoosiers (2-1) to just eight kills and a .000 team attack percentage. Despite the gap in offensive numbers, WKU found itself trailing midway through the game when an attack error gave IU a 14-13 lead. However, the Lady Toppers scored the next five points to pull out to an 18-14 lead following a Brittany Bowen kill. WKU would not trail the rest of the game, but Indiana would get within two at 25-23. Again the Lady Toppers rallied, scoring the final five points to take the opening game.
Indiana hit a match-best .316 in game two, but again WKU answered with a big offensive game of its own — hitting .452 and recording 16 kills. Just as in game one, the Lady Toppers gave themselves some breathing room midway through the contest when it opened up a 23-17 lead on a kill from Gideon. However, IU scored seven straight to take a 24-23 lead following a block by Gabrielle Allison. An Aquila Orr kill pulled WKU back even and started a 5-1 run to open up a 28-25 lead when the spurt was capped by a service ace from Hofmeyer. The Hoosiers would get back within two, but Argabright and Noe combined on a block on the final point to give the Lady Toppers a two-game lead in the match with a 30-27 win.
After jumping out to an early lead in game three, WKU again saw the Hoosiers go on a run to grab the advantage as they pulled out to a 19-16 lead on a Taylor Wittmer kill. The Lady Toppers regained the lead when a Lindsey Gould ace made it 22-21, but the teams would find themselves tied six more times — the last coming at 28-28. A kill from Noe and a block by Argabright ended the match, however, as the Lady Toppers finished off the sweep.
The Lady Toppers will bring their undefeated record home for four matches this week. WKU will host Kentucky Wednesday night at 7 p.m. (CDT) at E.A. Diddle Arena in the home opener, then entertain Tennessee State, Gardner-Webb and Marshall over the weekend in the 2007 Lady Topper Invitational.
“It would be great to see a packed Diddle Arena Wednesday night,” said Hudson. “Kentucky is a great instate rivalry, and this is a very special group that will be a lot of fun for our fans to watch all season long. The deserve nothing more than to see the arena loud and full of energy every time they take the court.”