Views from the Bottom of the Hill: All eyes on the spring

Lady Topper Volleyball returned to play on Nov. 7. The program swept UAB in three sets to open up season play. 

Nick Kieser

The final week of in-person classes has arrived at WKU, and if you planned on making it out to the last football game then it’s your last chance until next fall, except you didn’t miss much this season.

However, there are eight days remaining until the men’s basketball season tips off in the Golden Window Classic in Lincoln, Nebraska, and that’ll be a program to keep close tabs on.

Five seniors are on WKU’s team with some additional veteran players along with junior Charles Bassey who’s coming back from breaking his leg last December.

In light of basketball coming back, WKU Athletics announced last Wednesday sports that are not competing or practicing have ceased activity for the remainder of the semester.

Well, I hope volleyball comes back in January like they did in their season debut on Nov. 7 sweeping UAB in three sets.

Head coach Travis Hudson and his team are hopeful for a seamless spring schedule. It’s as if their fate of having a spring season relies on a ball spinning at the roulette table.

That’s the reality of all WKU sports aiming to return in the spring. Other than basketball debuting in November and December, there’s track and field that will come back. If everything runs smoothly, head coach Brooks LeCompte will stay busy with a few competitions this winter.

A few programs that will have to wait to resume action are baseball, softball and soccer. The men’s and women’s golf teams also played this fall.

Both baseball and softball were having solid seasons before the virus put a damper on it all last spring. The NCAA

gave the seniors back that year of eligibility, and I have no doubt they’ll be ready to play again.

The Lady Topper softball team was 20-5 and the Hilltopper baseball program was 10-6 prior to the end of the 2020 season. Both teams were either on the road or about to leave and had to return to the Hill wondering if there would be a chance to get back out on the field.

As the beat writer for baseball, I sat in my apartment watching WKU take on the University of Kentucky, and little did I know the next time I would talk to head coach John Pawlowski would be on Zoom.

When students and faculty return to campus on Jan. 19 for the spring semester, there’ll be some options for what sports to watch. The basketball teams will have just started their seasons, and baseball and softball could have their schedules planned by then.

Soccer, track and field, volleyball, golf and tennis will also have their schedules by then, but C-USA will be in charge of the seasons and when everything will be finalized.

One thing to keep in mind is the fans. Will there be anyone aside from the media and personnel at these games? My anticipation is that outdoor sports like baseball and softball will have limited capacity for the 2021 season.

Basketball capacity will be limited as well. Roughly 1,000 people will be allowed in, but nothing is official prior to Thanksgiving Break.

A statistic worth holding onto came out of athletics last week, stating that WKU had a 1.7% overall COVID-19 testing positivity rate, including a 0.4% positivity rate over the last two weeks.

This sounds like a number for only one athletics program at WKU. There’s no shadow of a doubt that there have been positive cases from teams practicing like soccer, softball and baseball.

Just on Saturday it was reported by the Bowling Green Daily News that 11 football players or members of the team did not suit up; that stat is definitely off now. According to the report, three of the tests were positive cases and eight were from contact tracing.

When speaking with the golf coaches both have said there have been no positive cases this fall.

WKU has been staying healthy compared to some other schools across the nation. The football program undergoes three tests a week, and once the basketball programs begin to play this will be a weekly routine for them too.

Hilltopper basketball was predicted to finish the 2020-21 season atop the conference, and the Lady Toppers were picked to finish in fifth.

A high tempo and experienced Hilltopper basketball team led by head coach Rick Stansbury takes the floor on Nov. 28. Additionally, the youthful Lady Toppers and head coach Greg Collins are poised to come out of the gates swinging when that first game pops up on the schedule.

The Hill has some veteran-led programs this upcoming spring, and whether it be in Diddle Arena, out at the ballpark or at the soccer complex some sense of normalcy is returning along with some high energy sports.

Stay tuned, a big slate is ahead. Who’s going to finish at the top when the dust settles on the 2021 spring semester?

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected] Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.