BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-Behind the performance of redshirt junior Paige Wessel, the No. 19 Western Kentucky University volleyball team (23-3, 9-0 SBC) earned its 15th-straight victory Friday night with a 3-0 win (25-16, 25-21, 25-16) over Arkansas State (15-10, 5-4 SBC) at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The win keeps WKU perfect in Sun Belt Conference play while also giving the Lady Toppers an unblemished record of sets won in the league schedule. With 27-straight sets won against a SBC opponent, WKU has now won 31-straight sets dating back to its match with Eastern Michigan on September 15.
"I think we played really, really well tonight," WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. "I think Arkansas State was ready to play, and they have a very good, senior-laden team. I think we needed a great effort tonight, and we got that."
Wessel's 17 kills is a career high for the Louisville, Ky., native, as she recorded a .682 hitting mark against the Red Wolves. Sophomore Heather Boyan finished with eight kills while freshman Noelle Langenkamp tabbed seven. Junior Melanie Stutsman passed out 36 assists for the contest.
"When I think of Paige's performance, I think Melanie Stutsman because I told Mel that when she gets passes she needs to get her the ball. The kid had a hot hand tonight," said Hudson. "She is a special offensive player, and tonight she put us on her back. Sometimes setters, quarterbacks, point guards want to over think it. They think 'since that worked, maybe I should go here,' but sometimes you don't need to over think it and need to give it to the kid who is hot, and Paige was certainly that."
The Lady Toppers held ASU to a .058 hitting percentage, as the duo of junior Ashley Potts and freshman Rachel Engle put up double-digit digs with Potts posting 17 and Engle collecting a season-high 12 digs.
WKU opened the match aggressive to jump ahead 6-1, as the only ASU point came off of a service error. The closest the Red Wolves would get was three points at 7-4, as four blocks in the set by WKU helped the team to a 16-8 lead. The Lady Toppers kept the visitors at an eight- or nine-point difference the rest of the set, as two kills from Langenkamp helped WKU close the set at 25-16.
The lead for WKU in the second set was on a short leash, as ASU kept the score close the entire contest. With WKU ahead 4-2, the Red Wolves came back to tie the set three times before an ASU service error gave the Lady Toppers back the lead for good at 10-9. A 5-0 run by WKU from there helped cushion the advantage to 14-9. Up 18-11 at an ASU timeout, the Red Wolves came out of the break to rattle off five-straight points of their own to force WKU to the benches at 18-16. A block by Boyan and kills from Boyan, Wessel and senior Jordyn Skinner helped WKU outscore ASU 7-5 to seal the set win at 25-21.
With Wessel's eight kills and Potts' seven digs in the final set, WKU was able to close the night with a 25-16 set win. Seven kills out of the gate gave WKU an 8-4 favor. The Red Wolves would pull within one at 11-10, but a 6-1 scoring run sparked from a Boyan kill would make ASU go to the benches at 17-11. Wessel would add four of her kills from there to give WKU the match.
The team returns to action Saturday, October 20 at noon against UALR at E.A. Diddle Arena. Prior to the match, the team will recognize the 2002 WKU volleyball team, as the 2012 season marks the 10th anniversary of WKU's first SBC Tournament title and the team's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.