Photo courtesy of wkusports.com
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - 17th-Ranked Western Kentucky University claimed the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Championship with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-22) victory in the finals over third-seeded North Texas on Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
WKU (32-3, 15-0 SBC) won the SBC Championships for the second consecutive year and upped its season win-streak to 24 consecutive matches. The Lady Toppers did not drop a set in the tournament after winning 45 of 46 games in league play.
2012 SBC Volleyball Most Outstanding Player Melanie Stutsman dished out a match-high 43 assists to go along with her five digs and three blocks. Stutsman spread the wealth around on the offensive end as Paige Wessel and Jordyn Skinner each notched 11 kills, Haley Bodway had nine and Heather Boyan eight.
Wessel, who earned a spot on the SBC All-Tournament team, posted a .304 hitting percentage in the match while Skinner left a .333 mark. SBC Defensive Player of the Year Ashley Potts scooped up 14 digs, which tied NT's Shelby Tamura for a match-high.
The Mean Green hung around in all three sets and finished a very successful 2012 campaign at 25-12 overall and 9-5 in league play. SBC Freshman of the Year Carnae Dillard and Courtney Windham each picked up SBC All-Tournament accolades for their stellar performances. Dillard knocked down 18 kills to go along with her eight digs in the match, while Windham registered nine kills and four blocks.
Arkansas State's Kelsey Sullivan and Troy's Blair Winston rounded out the All-Tournament Team after leading their respective teams to the SBC Semi-Finals.
With a slight 6-5 lead in the first set, WKU went on a 6-0 run to grab a 12-5 lead after kills by Skinner and Boyan. In need of a run, NT called timeout trailing 16-9. The Lady Toppers were still ahead, 17-11, when they took three in a row to extend to lead to 20-11. After the Mean Green took the next two points, WKU responded with a 4-0 spurt to go up, 24-13. NT clawed back with a 4-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to 24-17, but a kill by Skinner ended the set, 25-17 for the Lady Toppers.
Trailing 9-8 in the second game, the Mean Green reeled off three in a row, sparked by a Dillard spike, to take an 11-9 advantage. WKU evened it at 12-12, and it stayed knotted at 14-14 until the Lady Toppers went on a 6-1 dash to go up, 20-15, after a kill by Noelle Langenkamp. NT got back in it, down 21-18, but WKU answered by taking the next three to lead, 24-18. The Lady Toppers won the frame, 25-19, on a kill by Bodway.
The teams went point-for-point for most of the third set, reaching a 17-17 stalemate with neither team ever leading by more than two. A 4-1 Lady Topper run gave them a 21-18 edge and they kept it at 23-20. The Mean Green didn't go down without a fight, as Dillard swung for a couple more kills to keep it close. The Lady Toppers finished the set, 25-22, with the decisive kill by Boyan.
WKU will now await its fate for the NCAA Tournament which begins on Nov. 30. The NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship 64-team bracket will be announced during the nationally televised selection show on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 3 p.m. CT on ESPNU.