To kick off the Hilltopper Hysteria festivities Friday night, the WKU volleyball team picked up its 10th-consecutive victory with a 3-1 win over the visiting UAB Blazers. The Lady Toppers were led by 17 kills by Alyssa Cavanaugh while Rachel Anderson added 16 of her own in the contest.
With the victory, WKU Volleyball improved to 19-2 on the 2016 campaign and remains a perfect 6-0 in Conference USA action. The Lady Toppers have now won 41-straight home conference matches at the E.A. Diddle Arena with Friday’s victory. UAB fell to 9-13 overall and 2-5 in C-USA play with the loss.
“It was way less about enthusiasm and way more about execution and we just didn’t play well in the first set,” opened WKU head coach Travis Hudson. “That’s about as calm as you’ll ever see me when we are playing like that because at no point was UAB ever doing anything that was hurting us as much as we were just shooting ourselves in the foot. We just had to settle down, right the ship and we started to play much better.”
UAB took advantage of a slow start by the Lady Toppers and clinched the opening frame by a 25-20 margin. The first-set loss was just the fourth of the campaign for WKU which hit .207 in the frame against a .345 clip by the Blazers. Cavanaugh accounted for five of the Lady Toppers’ 13 kills in the frame while Georgia O’Connell recorded an ace.
Following the opening set, Hudson told the team to “just stay the course and relax”. The 22-year veteran of the program continued, “Volleyball is such a funny game, we couldn’t get out of our own way for a little while and once we did we played pretty good volleyball.”
O’Connell’s first dig of the second set was also the 1,500th career dig as she went on to finish with 11 in the match. WKU got back on track in the frame, claiming the set 25-19. Cavanaugh registered five more kills in the second set while Anderson produced five as well. Emma Kowalkowski tallied her first two service aces of the night in the set as the Red and White headed into the long break knotted at 1-1 in the match.
WKU came back strong in the third set of the contest, and led from start to finish on the way to a 25-12 victory. Anderson led the way offensively in the frame, hitting 1.000% with five kills on five swings. As a team, WKU hit a match-best .476 in the third set, while limiting UAB to a .059 attack percentage. Behind the line, the Lady Toppers registered five aces in the set with two coming off the hand of Sophia Cerino for her second multi-ace match of her debut season. Kowalkowski, Sydney Engle and Kaelin Grimes produced the remaining three service aces of the frame.
Set four saw Anderson and Cavanaugh combine for seven more kills in route to a 25-20 Lady Topper win. From the service line, WKU’s pair of freshmen accounted for five aces. Fittingly, the Red and White’s match-clinching point came off the hand of Cavanaugh for her match-high 17th kill.
Kowalkowski’s six aces on the night set a new personal-best for the freshman, a WKU individual match high and tied the C-USA top individual outing of the season. As a team, WKU recorded 13 aces, its top mark of the season and the second time the squad registered double digits in the category. Cerino produced a career-high four aces in the match.
WKU worked at a .336 offensive clip on the night, producing 53 kills against just 15 errors on 113 attacks. In addition to Cavanaugh and Anderson, the Lady Toppers saw Taylor Dellinger and Engle register eight kills each. Anderson led all competitors with a .609 attack percentage in the contest.
Defensively, O’Connell was the lone Lady Topper with double-digit digs. Engle accounted for nine while Jessica Lucas chipped in eight more. At the net, Lucas and Anderson each tallied four blocks each while WKU finished with seven total team stops.
Lucas finished with 47 assists in the match to go along with eight digs, four block assists and a trio of kills. Entering the match, the junior needed 44 helpers to move into sixth place on the career assists all-time leaders list at WKU.
A crowd of 2,737 fans took in the Lady Topper Volleyball victory from the Diddle Arena to kick-off Hilltopper Hysteria.
“It is a fun opportunity,” Hudson shared of playing in front of the crowd. “We have so many season ticket holders for women’s volleyball now, they saw their first volleyball match on the night of Hilltopper Hysteria. It’s what we always ask, for them to come out tonight, and we’re excited they did.”
On Sunday, the Lady Toppers will go for their 350th win in program history inside the E.A. Diddle Arena. FIU comes to town for the noon CT contest after dropping its Friday night matchup in Charlotte. The Panthers enter Sunday’s match with a 7-13 overall reading and a 1-5 mark in C-USA play.
With the victory, WKU has now claimed five-straight matches over the Blazers and six of the last seven meetings. Additionally, the Lady Toppers improved to a perfect 9-0 when hitting .300 or better as a team on the season and 12-0 when limiting opponents to a hitting percentage of .200 or below.
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.