BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - The No. 21 Western Kentucky University volleyball team (6-3) had a close match with Virginia (4-3) Friday night, but it was the defense that lifted WKU to a 3-1 victory (25-23, 18-25, 25-19, 25-19) in the team's opening match of the WKU Invitational.
"I knew we had to be mentally ready for a long, competitive match," WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. "I know that these matches are all going to be tough, and Virginia was definitely tough. They are a much improved team, and we are really glad to get a win."
With offensive stats close between the teams, WKU's defense stepped up to take out the Cavaliers. WKU had 43 digs to Virginia's 34 while outblocking the visitors 9-4.
Senior Ashley Potts made key digs throughout the contest, finishing with 17. She was followed by Lady Topper freshmen Kaelin Grimes and Georgia O'Connell with eight each. At the net, junior Heather Boyan put up six blocks, as she had a career-high 12 blocks against the Cavs last season in Charlottesville.
Sophomore Haley Bodway posted 11 kills while redshirt senior Pagie Wessel and sophomore Noelle Langenkamp had 10 apiece. Senior Melanie Stutsman finished with 44 assists.
For Virginia, Tori Janowski had 19 kills in the match followed by Mallory Woolridge with 10. Woolridge also led the team in front row defense with a trio of blocks while Lauren Fuller added 13 digs.
Both teams posted 14 kills in the first set, but it was Bodway's timely kills at the end of the set that gave WKU a 25-23 win. Back and forth early in the contest, Virginia broke away from a 12-12 tie to go up 20-15 and force two WKU timeouts during that span. Out of the break, WKU worked its way back to tie the frame at 23. WKU ended the set on a 9-1 run, as Bodway posted three of her six set kills during the spree to give WKU the win.
With the Lady Toppers ahead 8-5 in the second set, Virginia powered past the home team 11-9 after rolling out six-straight points. The Cavs hit .423 in the frame and closed out the set on a 5-1 run to take a 25-18 win into the break.
After carrying an early 3-0 lead, WKU watched the advantage disappear, as Virginia tied the set six different times until the teams were knotted at 15 each. A Virginia miscue followed by a Wessel ace turned the momentum toward the Lady Toppers, as they would take the lead and not relinquish it. After a Cavs service error, a block from senior Janee' Diggins and kill from Langenkamp sealed the 25-19 victory.
Down in the early parts of the final frame, WKU went from being down 5-7 to being up 9-7 thanks in part to a block from Wessel and Boyan along with a kill from each of the duo. Potts found herself in the right spots at the right time, as her six set digs gave WKU one of its largest advantages at 22-15. With match point in reach, Virginia held off the Lady Toppers with three-straight points to close the gap, but a Langenkamp kill closed the door and gave WKU its 15th-straight win at home.
The WKU Invitational continues on Saturday with the opening match at 11 a.m. between WKU and Ohio. WKU will play its final match of the tournament at 7 p.m. against UNLV.