I spoke on the phone with Western Kentucky volleyball coach Travis Hudson earlier tonight, just a few hours after the Lady Toppers made sure they’re going dancing.
WKU (31-3) won its fourth Sun Belt Conference championship – and first since 2008 – with a 3-1 (25-22, 12-25, 25-18, 25-18) victory Saturday over Middle Tennessee at U.S. Century Bank Arena in Miami.
The win was the Lady Toppers’ second in eight days over MTSU, following a five-set victory in Murfreesboro, Tenn., that clinched the regular-season title. WKU had lost seven straight matches to the Lady Raiders before that.
WKU earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with Saturday’s win. The tournament field will be released Nov. 27 during a selection show that will be broadcast at 5 p.m. on ESPNU.
WKU will release details this week for a selection show watch party, Hudson said, and fans will be welcome to join the Lady Toppers as they learn what the bracket has in store.
WKU is winless in five previous NCAA tournament appearances, most recently falling to Cincinnati in the first round last season.
Seniors Tiffany Elmore and Lindsay Williams were named to the Sun Belt Conference All-Tournament team, while junior Jordyn Skinner was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
WKU’s 31 wins are the most this year among Division I teams and the third highest total in school history, as well as the program’s most since 2005.
Here’s what Hudson had to say:
On beating MTSU for the title:
“You like to see good things happen to teams that do it the right way, and that’s what this team has done for me this year. Middle is obviously our big rival, and they’ve had our number for the last four or five matches. To get them on their home court to win the regular season, and then to get them in the finals of the tournament is a pretty sweet thing.”
On besting the Blue Raiders twice in eight days:
“I think it got us past that,” Hudson said of last week’s win. “I think we went out a much more confident team against them than we have the past several times.”
On WKU’s NCAA tournament draw:
“We’ve done everything we can to this point to deserve a reasonable first-round matchup. That’s the key. You’ve got to find yourself in a situation where you’re playing someone that’s beatable. We’ve been to the NCAA tournament five times, and we haven’t been a favorite in any of those five matchups. But we’re 31-3, we’re going to be in the Top 25 next week. There’s just no reason that we shouldn’t get a matchup that’s a little more reasonable to handle.”
On what makes this team special:
“We have a full roster of kids that have won matches for us,” Hudson said. “That’s not lip service. You can go back through matches and see how each kid did that. They’ve all accepted their roles, and they’re more interested in the team being successful than them being successful. That’s really hard to come by.”