LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After suffering back-to-back regular season losses for the first
time since the opening weekend of the 2014 season, WKU bounced back and closed
action from the Cardinal Classic with a sweep of Kent State Saturday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, the 24th-ranked WKU squad suffered its first sweep of the year
at the hands of Illinois in an offensive shootout.
“It was great to end the weekend on a positive note,” head coach Travis Hudson said
of the Kent State sweep. “I am very proud of the way that our kids bounced back. We
were exposed a bit this weekend and have a lot to work on and regroup with a tough
road ahead of us.”
With the tournament-closing victory, the Lady Toppers climbed to 5-2 on the year and
3-1 in neutral matches while Kent State finished winless on the weekend. WKU
finished the Louisville-hosted event with three players hitting better than .300
while the squad collectively recorded a .286 reading.
Sydney Engle finished the day with 12 kills on 17 swings against just one hitting
error for a .647 hitting percentage to go along with five assists, five digs, three
blocks and an ace. The senior recorded a team-best .528 hitting clip over the
tournament and earned All-Tournament Team honors from the Cardinal Classic.
ILLINOIS 3, NO. 24 WKU 0 (16-25, 17-25, 13-25)
After a back-and-forth opening frame that saw five ties and WKU own a lead on
multiple occasions, Illinois surged ahead late for a 25-16 first set victory. The
Lady Toppers hit an efficient .391 clip with 12 kills on 23 attacks against just
three errors. Alyssa Cavanaugh led the way for the Red and White with four kills in
Set two saw the Lady Toppers again jump out to an early lead, but the Illini stayed
within reach before scoring seven of eight points during a stretch to force a WKU
timeout down 13-9. The sides traded points out of the break in what became a
shootout with a combined 27 kills in the frame. WKU recorded a .478 hitting
percentage in the set while Illinois worked at a .632 rate. Cavanaugh matched her
first set total with four more kills.
Action after the long break opened with the Red and White putting the first point on
the board for the third-straight set. Illinois again started breaking away working
ahead to a 12-8 lead before Cavanaugh found the floor for her 11th kill of the
morning to pull WKU back within three. However, the Orange and Blue registered the
next nine points for a 21-9 advantage. WKU wasn’t done just yet, going on a run of
its own before the set’s close. Three straight Rachel Anderson kills brought WKU
back within single digits but Illinois shut the door on the 25-13 third-frame
Cavanaugh finished with a team-best 11 kills on a .300 hitting clip. As a team, WKU
was able to work around Illinois’ big block, hitting .338 with 37 kills against 11
attack errors. Anderson added nine kills while Taylor Dellinger chipped in seven.
“It was a frustrating morning for our team,” Hudson said of the day’s opening match.
“We did some really good things offensively. When you’re able to hit over .300 as a
team you expect to be in the match. We obviously never gave ourselves a chance with
the way we defended.”
WKU 3, KENT STATE 0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-15)
WKU got back on track in the Cardinal Classic finale against Kent State. The Lady
Toppers and Golden Flashes traded points to 4-4 in the opening set before the Red
and White tallied three-straight to take a lead they would not relinquish. With 14
team kills against just one attack error in the opening frame, WKU Volleyball posted
a .448 offensive efficiency led by five Anderson kills.
The Lady Toppers again posted the first points of the second set and never looked
back in the frame that had zero ties or lead changes. WKU pushed ahead to a 15-10
lead to force a Kent State timeout before extending its advantage to eight points at
20-12 after a Sophia Cerino ace. The Lady Toppers picked up four of their final five
points in the frame off of kills for the 25-15 second set victory. In the team’s
most efficient set of the night, WKU Volleyball again put down 14 kills against one
error for a .591 team hitting percentage.
Third set action saw just two ties, both coming early in the frame before WKU put
the match out of reach. The Lady Toppers registered 10-of-14 points during a stretch
to open up a 14-8 advantage. The final six points of the set were Lady Topper kills
including a trio by Kayland Jackson.
Collectively, WKU hit .440 in the match, its best showing of the weekend and saw
both Anderson and Cavanaugh hit double-digits in the kill category. Jackson added a
career-best nine kills herself.
Anderson led the way at the net for the Lady Toppers defensively, collecting a
season-high five blocks on WKU’s fourth sweep of the season. The Red and White
matched their season best block total with nine.
Jessica Lucas finished the second match with 36 assists to go along with a trio of
kills, six digs, three blocks and an ace.
Emma Kowalkowski posted a team-high 11 digs in the match for her fifth double-figure
dig outing of the season.
WKU Volleyball is back in action for a midweek match at Belmont on Tuesday. Action
from Nashville, Tenn., will commence at 6 p.m.
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.