by the Extra Point's Jeremy Brown
Another wild week of college sports has come to a conclusion and for the most part it was a massive success for each athletic program on the Hill. In case you were hiding under a rock or maybe only paying attention to that impressive Topper football squad, we'll give you a quick recap of all the action.
It was pretty ugly for about 59 minutes and 56 seconds but that's why you play 60. The Tops scraped a 10-9 victory over reigning Sun Belt champions FIU off a 34-yard boot from plagued senior kicker Casey Tinius. WKU kickers have now hit four of 16 field goal attempts on the season, but the last two have been game-winners. While Tinius was heralded as the hero and lifted off the field by teammates, it was the Topper defense that deserved an even bigger pat on the back. They held T.Y. Hilton and the explosive Panther offense to just 180 total yards and kept them out of the end zone. WKU has now won five in a row for the first time since 2004 and needs to win one of their two remaining Sun Belt games to become bowl eligible for the first time in school history.
The soccer Toppers marched all the way to the Sun Belt Conference Championship in Murfreesboro this week. They kicked things off with a 1-0 victory over defending champs and host MTSU while advancing to the title game with a penalty kick victory over No.1 seed North Texas. It came down to penalty kicks once again in the championship versus FIU, but the Panthers emerged victorious 4-3. That's a tough way to see this Topper senior class go out.. surrendering no goals in regulation throughout the entire tournament yet still coming up short. Mallory Outerbridge and Libby Stout headline the senior class that has meant so much to Jason Neidell's squad. Outerbridge leaves the Hill as the all-time leader in goals scored and total points while Stout exits as both WKU's and Sun Belt's all-time leader in shutouts.
Ken McDonald's #TeamReset made its debut Saturday night and while the victory over Xavier (La.) wasn't overly impressive, you can tell this team is going to play hard-nosed basketball this season. McDonald said in Wednesday's Media Day that the identity of this team will be toughness and that toughness was on display Saturday evening. WKU forced 27 turnovers and held Xavier to 40 percent shooting on the game. Freshman guard Derrick Gordon shined in his debut, pouring in a game-high 17 points on 5-10 shooting. Fellow freshman Nigel Snipes was also a bright spot for the Tops, recording a 11-point, 11-rebound double-double in 26 minutes of action. Shooting wasn't great for WKU at just over 40 percent but finding the offensive groove, especially with a team as young as this, takes time for all basketball teams.
It's going to be an interesting season for Mary Taylor Cowles and Co. Five seniors and seven freshmen is about as unique of a mix as you can have, but it worked out fine in the second half of WKU's 84-59 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan. Seniors LaTeira Owens and Keisha Mosley combined for 46 points and handled the Panthers throughout the game. Owens also snagged a game-high 11 rebounds. While the front-court dominance was the theme for WKU freshman Alexis Govan was the surprise. Govan poured in 8 points, grabbed three boards and came up with three steals in her debut as a Lady Topper. That's not an over-whelming stat line but her numbers don't show what a physical presence and energizer she was for WKU. Early indications would suggest Govan has a bright future ahead of her and that Cowles squad will be a force as usual in Sun Belt play.
Lost in the hoopla of the football team's five-game winning streak and basketball tipping off is the continued dominance of the WKU Volleyball team. The Tops have quietly swept 10 conference foes in a row after victories at South Alabama and Troy this weekend and have won a NATION-BEST 27 games. With such a great season you would think WKU would have wrapped up a regular season Sun Belt title, but the Tops still have to avenge their lone conference loss this Friday at MTSU. Regardless of the outcomes, however, WKU is still in prime position to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But obviously a goal for every team is to win their respective conference and the Tops certainly have an opportunity to do just that.
Swimming and Diving
Both the men's and women's teams came away with monumental non-conference victories over ACC opponents Georgia Tech and Clemson this weekend. Head Coach Bruce Marchionda continually challenges his teams with difficult meets early in the season and they continue to respond in big ways. You can't replace a swimmer like Claire Donahue but freshmen Allie Duff is trying her best as she notched 3-event wins. Duff took first in both the 200 and 500 yard freestyle races while also earning a win in the 200-yard medley. Junior Luke Musser, whose freshmen brother Seth Musser earned Sun Belt swimmer of the week honors last week, led the way on the men's side. Luke swept the breaststroke events while freshmen Loui Little shined in the 500 and 1,000 yard freestyles.
That's the week in review. We'll have a preview of all this week's action coming up soon. For all Topper coverage you can follow @extrapointwku, @JBrownWKU or @dotbennet on Twitter.