From the Sun Belt Conference
Top-seeded and 17th-ranked WKU posted a 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-19) sweep over eighth-seeded FIU in the first round of the Sun Belt Volleyball Championships on Thursday on its home court at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The victory extended WKU's winning-streak to 22 consecutive matches. FIU was the only SBC team to take a set off WKU (30-3, 15-0 SBC) in the regular season, but the Lady Toppers had all the answers in the postseason matchup as they hit for a .343 percentage as a team.
Noelle Langenkamp and Heather Boyan led the charge for WKU with 13 kills apiece. Boyan also hit for a .524 hitting percentage, while Langenkamp tallied a .478 mark with five blocks. SBC Defensive Player of the Year Ashley Potts compiled a match-high 20 digs to anchor the defense. All-SBC First-Team honoree Melanie Stutsman quarterbacked the team with a double-double, 46 assists and 12 digs.
FIU ended its season at 10-19 overall and 7-8 SBC in league play. All-SBC Second-Team winner Marija Prsa stood out for the Panthers with 12 kills, nine digs and a .257 hitting percentage.
The Lady Toppers got off to a quick 4-0 start in the first set and extended it to 9-3, forcing FIU to call an early timeout. WKU kept the momentum going, and the Panthers used their second timeout trailing 14-6. The Lady Toppers kept their foot on the pedal the whole way and took the set, 25-12, after winning the last six points. WKU hit for an astounding .467 percentage in the set, evenly distributed between four players with four kills.
In the second game, WKU broke a 5-5 stalemate with an 8-1 run to go up 13-6. The Lady Toppers led 15-8 when FIU capitalized on a couple strong attacks from Prsa and took a pair to make it 15-10. WKU responded with a 6-0 spurt to re-gain control at 21-10. The Lady Toppers kept their distance and won the game, 25-12. Langenkamp led WKU with five kills in the frame.
The Panthers came out hot after the intermission and darted to a 6-3 lead in the third. FIU still led 8-6 when WKU pushed back with a 5-0 run to take the lead, 11-8. Still ahead 14-11, the Lady Toppers reeled off three in a row to create distance at 17-11. The Panthers battled the whole way, but the Lady Toppers ultimately prevailed, 25-19.
The winner of the tournament earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. All matches are streamed live for free on www.sunbeltsports.org.