BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Conference USA Tournament play will kick off with the top-seeded Lady Toppers taking on No. 8 UTEP in Friday’s noon CT match. WKU swept the Miners earlier this season in El Paso, Texas, and leads the all-time series 5-0. UTEP finished the regular season with a record of 8-20 overall including a 5-9 mark in C-USA matchups.
Friday, Nov. 18 | Noon CT | No. 8 UTEP | Tudor Fieldhouse – Houston, Texas
Gametracker | C-USA.tv
Sat. Nov. 19 | 2:30 p.m. CT | No. 4 UTSA or No. 5 Florida Atlantic | Tudor Fieldhouse – Houston, Texas
Sun. Nov. 20 | 1 p.m. CT | C-USA Tournament Championship | Tudor Fieldhouse – Houston, Texas
With a victory, WKU would advance to Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. semifinal match to take on the winner of the No. 4 UTSA versus No. 5 Florida Atlantic contest. The Lady Toppers defeated both UTSA and Florida Atlantic 3-1 during regular-season play. The championship match of the tournament is slated for 1 p.m. CT on Sunday and will feature either No. 2 Southern Miss, No. 3 Marshall, host and sixth-seeded Rice or seventh seeded North Texas.
All seven matches of the tournament will be held at the Tudor Fieldhouse on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. Each match will also be streamed live on C-USA TV.
The Lady Toppers enter the C-USA Tournament riding an 18-match winning streak, the second-best stretch in the nation currently.
LAST TIME OUT
On WKU’s Senior Night at Diddle Arena, the Lady Toppers swept their fifth-straight opponent with a 3-0 victory over the North Texas Mean Green. WKU was the only team in conference play to beat North Texas in three sets in 2016.
The Lady Toppers fought off five-straight set points in the opening frame behind the serve of freshman Emma Kowalkowski and 12 Alyssa Cavanaugh kills to win the set 29-27. Cavanaugh finished with 18 kills in the match while Georgia O’Connell led the defense with 14 digs and her 100th career ace, which secured the first-set win.
WKU’s win over North Texas would add even more impressive numbers to its resume as the Lady Toppers C-USA regular season play undefeated at 14-0. It marked the fifth time that the program accomplished the feat (1991, 4-0; 2002, 14-0; 2005, 12-0; 2012, 15-0).
An undefeated regular season has been accomplished just three times in C-USA history. Tulsa did it most recently in 2010 going 20-0. Prior to that, Louisville accomplished the unbeaten season in 2004 at 13-0 and back in 1995 at 12-0. The 2004 Louisville squad is the only team to go undefeated in regular-season play and win the league tournament though.
REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONS
WKU Volleyball clinched the 2016 Conference USA regular season championship with its sweep of Rice. The conference championship marks the third time in the three years that WKU has been a member of the league. The Lady Toppers also closed out their time in the Sun Belt by winning the regular season championship the final three seasons as members. Altogether, the Red and White have won six-straight regular season conference championships.
With the regular-season title claimed, WKU in now the sixth team in C-USA history to three-peat as regular season champions. Last week’s win over North Texas made the Lady Toppers just the second team to achieve the feat including a perfect season.
RICE & MIDDLE TENNESSEE COME TO TOWN
After four matches away from home, the Lady Toppers finally returned to action in Diddle Arena and did not disappoint. WKU picked up two sweeps, first over Rice to secure the C-USA regional season title and then over rival Middle Tennessee, just 16 hours apart.
Three WKU attackers registered at least 12 kills in the win over Rice, including Cavanaugh, Taylor Dellinger and Sydney Engle. O’Connell posted a season-high 25 digs and Jessica Lucas registered her 11th double double of the season in the win.
The next day, the WKU offense worked at a .459 clip to take down the Blue Raiders in straight sets. Cavanaugh led the way with 10 kills while Engle registered 12 digs to lead the defense.
As WKU Volleyball continues to climb the rankings, it has also climbed in the RPI ratings, up to No. 16. The Lady Toppers currently own 12 wins over top-100 ranked teams this season with their top three wins coming over No. 32 Pittsburgh, No. 34 Cincinnati and No. 53 Arkansas State. WKU’s lone loss at full strength came to No. 13 Michigan State (11 RPI).
VOLLEYBALLMAG.COM MID-MAJOR POLL
For the first time in WKU Volleyball history, the Lady Toppers were voted into the top spot of VolleyballMag.com’s Mid-Major Poll for back-to-back weeks. The Lady Toppers sit atop the standings for a third week in the most recent rankings and share the top spot with BYU currently. WKU received five first-place votes from the panel of coaches representing 10 different conferences across the country.
WKU opened the season at No. 5 in the weekly Mid-Major poll back on August 23. For the next six weeks, the Lady Toppers remained at fourth or fifth in the VolleyballMag.com rankings before breaking into the top three on Oct. 11, following the squad’s win at Southern Miss. The Red and White came in at No. 2 for the next two polls, which followed WKU victories over Lipscomb, UTSA and three other Conference USA squads.
Two days after WKU Volleyball won its 15th-consecutive match of the 2016 season, the Lady Toppers were voted No. 1, surpassing previously top-ranked San Diego, which fell to the third spot. Also ranking in the top five of the most recent Mid-Major Poll is Creighton in third, Hawai’i in fourth and San Diego fifth.
LAST TIME ON THE ROAD
WKU Volleyball closed its regular-season road slate with a pair of sweeps. The first stop was in Huntington, West Virginia, where the Lady Toppers swept Marshall, led by 17 Rachel Anderson kills and a .402 overall team hitting percentage.
Two days later, the Red and White went down to Birmingham, Alabama, and swept UAB. Lucas registered her 10th double-double performance of the season in the contest and Cavanaugh led WKU with 17 kills.
The pair of victories propelled the Lady Toppers to a perfect 11-0 mark in road matches this season and the same record in C-USA matchups.
BACK IN THE POLLS
After a week out of the top-25 rankings, the Lady Toppers have been in the rankings the past four weeks. The Lady Toppers reentered at No. 23 for its highest rating since the Sept. 5 poll. The following poll, on Oct. 31, put WKU at No. 21, its best rating since the first week of voting. In the two most recent polls, WKU was rated No. 20 in the country.
For the 16th-consecutive season, WKU Volleyball has registered 20 wins in a season. Travis Hudson has led WKU to 17 20-win seasons during his 22 seasons at the helm of the program. WKU has extended its streak of 25-win seasons to 16 as well, which ranks as a tie for the second-best active streak in NCAA Volleyball.
LEADING THE LEAGUE
WKU sports three athletes leading C-USA volleyball in five statistical categories as Lucas leads the league in assists per set (11.49), Engle owns 0.45 aces per set and 46 total aces and Cavanaugh leads in both points (478.5) and total kills (444) entering the final weekend of play.
As a team, the Lady Toppers lead Conference USA in five categories including assists per set (13.63), hitting percentage (.308), kills per set (14.42), winning percentage (.931) and opponent hitting percentage (.172). Four of those figures also rank in the top 10 across the nation.
FIRST SET DOMINANCE
With 29 matches of the 2016 season in the books, the Lady Toppers have lost just five times the first set of a match. WKU moved to an impressive mark of 24-5 in the opening frame with the regular season in the books.
CONFERENCE USA ACCOLADES
With all of the 2016 weekly Conference USA awards handed out, WKU saw 12 accolades presented to a Lady Topper. In the opening week of honors, Cavanaugh was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week while Lucas earned a Setter of the Week nod, the duo repeated the feat in the awards given on October 10.
In the five weeks in between, Lucas was tabbed the C-USA Setter of the Week four more times to up her career number to 11 weekly honors. Lucas is the first student-athlete in C-USA volleyball history to earn five weekly awards of any sort during the first six weeks of a season in conference history. The junior also now owns the single-season record across all four weekly honors with seven weekly awards following her most recent nod on Oct. 31.
Anderson and O’Connell have also been named Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week, respectively. Anderson also picked up a second Offensive Player of the Week laurel, while Lucas earned an award the same week to mark four weeks that multiple Lady Toppers were honored.
BIG WEEKEND IN THE LONESTAR STATE
Opening their four-match stretch on the road, the Lady Toppers extended their win streak to 13-straight matches with a sweep of UTEP and a four-set win over UTSA. WKU improved to 22-2 with the pair of wins and fended off the then second-ranked Roadrunners in San Antonio.
Anderson posted 10 kills over UTEP and a career-high 20 strikes in the 2015 C-USA Tournament Championship rematch at UTSA. In Friday’s three-set match at UTEP, Lucas came just one kill and one dig shy of her first triple double performance. On Sunday, WKU held UTSA to its lowest offense efficiency rate of the season at .077. In the contest, O’Connell tied her season-best of 23 digs.
UAB & FIU
WKU’s first meeting of the season with the UAB Blazers took four sets of action before the Lady Toppers came out victorious. Cavanaugh led everyone with 17 kills while Anderson contributed 16 of her own. The Red and White tallied a season-high 13 service aces in the contest led by six from Kowalkowski and four more from Sophia Cerino, WKU’s pair of freshmen.
The Sunday sweep of FIU marked the 350th victory inside the E.A. Diddle Arena for the Volleyball program. The Lady Toppers threw a block party with the second-most blocks in a three-set match by a C-USA team this season at 14. Cavanaugh finished with 13 kills while Amara Listenbee tied a personal-best seven blocks in the outing.
HOME CONFERENCE WIN STREAK
Since joining C-USA, WKU has not lost a home match to a league opponent, improving to a 23-0 mark with its victory over North Texas. The streak extends back to 2011 when counting both C-USA and Sun Belt opponents for 45-consecutive home conference wins. Of those victories, 36 have been straight-set sweeps while only two matches have last the full five sets.
BATTLE OF LIPSCOMB
Last Tuesday evening’s non-conference matchup against Lipscomb proved to be a battle from beginning to end as the contest went five sets. Eventually, WKU pulled out its second five-set victory of the season. Cavanaugh produced 19 kills while Anderson contributed 15 to go along with six block assists. WKU finished 7-1 this season against teams that appeared in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
AT SOUTHERN MISS
WKU improved to 17-2 on the season and extended its current win streak to eight-consecutive matches with its Thursday night victory in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, over the Golden Eagles. Cavanaugh led all hitters with 21 kills while Lucas put up 48 assists along with 12 digs for her eighth double double of the season. Including Lucas, four Lady Toppers registered 11 or more digs in the contest: Lucas (12), Kowalkowski (11), Engle (11) and O’Connell (11).
FIRST C-USA MATCHES ON THE ROAD
In WKU’s first Conference USA road trip, the Lady Toppers visited Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee, sweeping both league foes. Listenbee hit a career-best 10 kills against the Lady Techsters while Cavanaugh registered a .789 hitting clip at Middle Tennessee.
CONFERENCE OPENING WEEKEND
WKU opened 2016 Conference USA play with a pair of wins over Florida Atlantic and Charlotte. WKU took down FAU in four sets while sweeping Charlotte. Cavanaugh registered a new career-high kill outing against FAU with 24 while Anderson upped her personal-best block outing to nine. Dellinger produced a career-high 15 kills in WKU’s victory over Charlotte while Lucas added her seventh double double of the season.
The 2016 WKU Volleyball season is being presented by the United States Marines. This season, the Marines and WKU Athletics are working together to promote the outstanding athletic and academic achievements of our female student-athletes. The Marines are proud to work with and support these future leaders of America.
How to Follow the Lady Toppers: For complete information on WKU Volleyball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUVolleyball and head coach Travis Hudson at @TravisHudsonWKU.