CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The No. 24 Western Kentucky University volleyball team fell 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 24-26, 23-25) to Marquette on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Huff Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois.
"Comments are not usually hard to come by from me but tonight they are a little," WKU coach Travis Hudson said. "(I'm) just very, very disappointed to see our season come to a close. I feel like we really competed. I don't think you can draw a box score that looks much more evenly matched up and ultimately going in we knew we had to do a good job from the service line and that's ultimately what our Achilles heel was. We didn't serve the ball very well and it was the difference in the match."
The Lady Toppers (31-4) posted a .217 hitting percentage and recorded 53 kills with only 22 attack errors. WKU recorded 15 team blocks and 58 digs in the match.
Marquette (24-10) finished the match with a .219 hitting percentage and tallied 60 digs along with 58 kills including 17 from Ciara Jones and 15 from Ashley Beyer. The Golden Eagles advance to take on the winner of the No. 3 Illinois vs. Central Michigan match at 7 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"You can't sit down and write a box score that is much more even than this one was," Hudson said. "That's volleyball. Sometimes you get a bounce, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you get a call, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you catch a break, sometimes you don't.
"The opportunities were there for us. For whatever reason, I just couldn't get us in the right frame of mind tonight to compete at the level that we had for a good portion of the year."
WKU junior outside hitter Jordyn Skinner led the offense with 13 kills while sophomore Janee' Diggins and redshirt sophomore Paige Wessel each tallied 10 kills. Lady Toppers senior Lindsay Williams recorded eight kills and a team best .333 hitting percentage.
Defensively, sophomore Ashley Potts paced the team with 20 digs, her eighth match this season where she has recorded 20 plus digs. Skinner capped the season with her 21st double-double of the season as she posted 10 digs. Junior Sarah Rogers added eight digs.
The Lady Toppers tallied 15 blocks as a team, their highest total since recording 10 blocks against Cincinnati on October 18. Skinner tied a career-high with seven total blocks, including four solo blocks, while Williams added six total blocks, two of which were solo. Senior Tiffany Elmore posted five blocks and Wessel had four.
The first set went back and forth between the two teams, featuring 14 ties and four lead changes. With the score knotted at 20-20, Marquette tallied five of the final six points to win the set 25-21.
With a 10-9 lead in the second set the Lady Toppers used a 5-1 run to build a 15-10 lead. WKU extended its advantage to six-points at 18-12 and again at 19-13 and never led by fewer than two the rest of the way. Marquette fought off two set points before a kill by Diggins closed out the 25-22 victory.
In the third set, WKU pulled away in the early going to lead 14-11 before Marquette used a 4-0 run to pull in front 15-14. The Lady Toppers rallied back to tie the set at 15-15 and again five more times including at 24-24. The Golden Eagles won the set 26-24 behind back-to-back kills from Ashley Beyer and Holly Mertens.
The fourth set was again close like the first set, seeing 12 ties. Down 20-18, WKU rallied back to tie the set at 20-20 behind a kill by Skinner and a Marquette attack error. The Lady Toppers again tied the match at 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23 before the MU closed out the 3-1 win on back-to-back kills by Danielle Carlson.
WKU finishes the season with a .272 team hitting percentage while recording 14.42 kills per set and 14.58 digs per set. This year's Lady Toppers are only the fifth team in program history to win at least 30 games in a season.