BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Using career nights from outside hitters Paige Wessel and Rachel Engle, the No. 16 Western Kentucky University volleyball team (3-1) rebounded from a first set loss to grab a 3-1 win (22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-9) over Belmont (1-3) Tuesday night at E.A. Diddle Arena.
"Last year we were the favorite many nights out, and it didn't faze us--we would just do what we do," WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. "Tonight we were really tight. It was our first home game, great crowd, and we looked really worried. We just played tight and didn't execute well, but I'm really proud we found a way.
"Our crowd was great. We really needed that tonight to get us over the hump in game four and were really feeding off the crowd. It was a great student turnout. I can't thank them enough. They are difference makers, so hopefully it is something we will see again a week from tonight."
Wessel pounded home 12 kills on 14 attempts with only one error to hit a career-high .786 in the match. Engle also tallied 12 kills, a career high for the sophomore, and had three blocks at the net.
Senior Ashley Potts led the team on the defensive end, adding 13 digs to WKU's 44 total. Freshman Kaelin Grimes notched her first double-digit dig performance of her career with 10. At the net, sophomore Noelle Langenkamp stopped the ball four times, as WKU outblocked the Bruins 10-5.
Belmont was led by Jessica Vestal's 14 kills and Allison McCoy's 10, as the squad was barely outdone in the kills category with 41 compared to WKU's 48. The service game helped and hurt Belmont, as the Bruins tabbed nine aces but committed 16 errors behind the line.
As a team that returned all 14 letterwinners, including six returners, from a 2012 squad that made it to the NCAA Tournament, Belmont came out in the first set finding the open spots on the court. The Bruins finished the frame with 13 kills, as their sixth kill of the frame gave them a 12-10 lead. WKU got its last lead of the set at 21-20 following a Bruin service error, but three miscues from WKU allowed Belmont to take a 25-22 first-set win.
Out of the gates in set two, Belmont again took over the board to jump to a 3-1 lead. Behind the serving arm of Grimes, WKU secured the lead after six-straight points, including a trio of kills from Engle, to put WKU ahead 12-9. The Lady Toppers wouldn't relinquish the advantage, as a .615 hitting percentage in the set led WKU to a 25-17 win.
The teams traded points early in the third set before the Bruins used eight-straight points to turn a score that had them down by three points to a lead at 17-12. WKU climbed its way back, tying the set at 22 apiece and again at 23 after Belmont attack errors. A kill from Engle and Belmont's eighth attack error of the set gave WKU the 25-23 win.
By the fourth set, WKU clicked on all cylinders, notching 13 kills with no errors to hit .565 in the final frame. A quick 5-1 lead forced a Belmont timeout, but WKU didn't let off the gas pedal out of the break. With Grimes again as the service line, the Lady Toppers rolled out 10-straight points that included four kills from senior Lindsay Spears to go ahead 19-6. WKU would go on to cruise to a 25-9 win, as the last time that WKU held an opponent to under 10 points in a 25-point set was against Belmont last season, allowing just seven points in one frame.
WKU goes on the road for its second regular-season tournament at the Four Points by Sheraton Seminole Invitational. The Lady Toppers open the tournament with No. 23 Ohio State before facing Florida A&M on Friday, September 6. The team then takes on tourney host and No. 15 Florida State on Saturday, September 7.