BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-The No. 18 Western Kentucky University volleyball team (29-3, 15-0 SBC) closed out a perfect Sun Belt Conference season on Friday night, as the Lady Toppers defeated Middle Tennessee (10-22, 7-8 SBC) in three sets (25-14, 25-12, 27-25) in front of a senior-night crowd of 1,423.
"I never get tired of seeing it like this," WKU head coach Travis Hudson said of the night's atmosphere. "It has been such a work in progress through my years here, and this team has done everything it needs to do to get people out here. It's good to see the campus and community out here giving them the atmosphere that they deserve."
It is the fourth time in school history that a Lady Topper team went undefeated in league play. WKU won 45 of 46 sets against SBC opponents and ended the overall regular season with 22 sweeps. The team also extended one of the nation's longest winning streaks to 21 matches.
Senior Jordyn Skinner and Sarah Rogers took the court in E.A. Diddle Arena for one more time in the regular season, as Skinner finished the night with seven kills and a match-high nine digs while Rogers put up five digs and two service aces.
Sophomore Heather Boyan led the team with 10 kills while redshirt junior Paige Wessel added nine and freshman Haley Bodway had eight. Junior Melanie Stutsman set the team to a .391 hitting percentage with 36 assists in the contest.
Junior Ashley Potts tabbed seven digs while the team put up 10 total blocks, led by Boyan's four and freshman Noelle Langenkamp's three.
For the Blue Raiders, Chelsea Ross tallied 11 kills followed by Brandi Waller and Tyler Richardson with eight each. Bri McCombs collected seven digs while Richardson notched four blocks and Katie Bange and Shelby Anderton had two each.
WKU tabbed a .500 hitting mark in the first set, as the Lady Toppers used 13 kills on 24 attempts with one error to cruise to a 25-14 win. A kill by Boyan and a pair of kills from Langenkamp helped WKU jump ahead 9-5 at a MTSU timeout. With five team blocks in the opening contest, Bodway notched a solo block to give WKU a 14-9 lead. A 6-1 run out of the second Blue Raider break that included kills by Bodway, Boyan and Stutsman and ace from freshman Rachel Engle extended the lead to 20-10, as a block by Langenkamp would seal the deal at set point.
Back-to-back kills by Wessel gave WKU an early advantage in the second set. The Lady Toppers carried the momentum throughout the frame, as a pair of kills by Stutsman and one from Skinner and Langenkamp put WKU on a 6-0 run and a 16-6 set lead. With a 21-11 advantage, a kill by Bodway sparked a 4-1 run, as junior Janee' Diggins capped the run with a kill and gave WKU the 25-12 win.
MTSU came out in the third frame with a strong defensive presence, as after two sets with no blocks put up seven in the final set. WKU would get no higher than a four-point advantage throughout the contest, including at 10-6; however, MTSU would put up back-to-back blocks to cut the deficit to 10-9. Up four again at 17-13 after a Stutsman-Boyan block, MTSU came back to tie it at points 18, 19 and 20. The Lady Toppers gave up the lead for the first time in the match at 21-20 before a Langenkamp kill tied it again. WKU got a chance to take the set at 24-22, but a Blue Raider block and ace held it off to knot the game at 24 apiece. With MTSU holding a 25-24 advantage, WKU put together a Boyan kill, Boyan-Stutsman block and a Rogers ace to end the set with a 27-25 win.
WKU hosts the Sun Belt Conference Tournament next week starting on Thursday, November 15 and concluding with the championship match on Saturday, November 17. The Lady Toppers are guaranteed one more chance to play at E.A. Diddle Arena and in the 2012 season, as the team takes the court on Thursday at 5 p.m.