WKU, Kentucky meet in exhibition for a cause

WKU-UK Volleyball Alyssa Cavanaugh shirts

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU volleyball team played its only exhibition game before the regular season Wednesday evening against in-state rival No. 7 Kentucky at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington.

This year marked the third season in a row the two teams have faced in preseason action. Due to an agreement between both head coaches, exact statistics from the exhibition match weren’t made available to the public.

But according to a series of tweets posted by the Kentucky volleyball team, the Wildcats claimed the opening frame 25-14the second set 25-21 and the fourth set 25-21. WKU won set three 25-18.

“I’m very encouraged,” head coach Travis Hudson said postgame. “I thought we did some really, really good things tonight. What a great opportunity to see who you are playing against the team the quality of Kentucky. They’re a legitimate Final Four-contender type team.”

All 12 Lady Toppers saw the floor during the game, but senior Sophia Cerino, who was named to the Conference USA Preseason All-Conference team on Aug. 15, had as solid outing on offense that showed why she will be one of the team’s leaders again this season.

“We got a lot of good work in today,” Cerino said. “I feel like it definitely exposed areas that we need to work on, but overall it made me really excited like kind of just the level of play that we played at today after being in practices for a little over a week.”

Freshman Paige Briggs also played well and showcased abilities that could make her an asset to the team during her first season.

“We have a lot to learn and like figure out how to mesh well together, but overall it was pretty good,” Briggs said. “It was a fun game.”

The exhibition contest also served as a way to shine light on the Bone Marrow & Cancer Foundation and give donations to the organization in honor of former WKU star Alyssa Cavanaugh.

“It is a really, really good thing,” Hudson said at a press conference on Aug. 17. “Hopefully it can become part of what we do in that exhibition game every year.”

Cavanaugh was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in September 2018. In January 2019, her father, Eric, was found to be a match for a donor. Cavanaugh went into remission in late January, and she had her bone marrow transplant on Feb. 19.

As previously reported by the Herald, the former volleyball standout headed home on May 31 after being treated for Leukemia.

Both teams wore orange warm-up jerseys before switching into their normal attire before the contest, which Cavanaugh attended.

“It’s a huge gesture Kentucky made towards us and I am super appreciative of it,” Cerino said. “Especially being teammates with Alyssa [Cavanaugh] and having played with her. I know that they know the level that she played at, so it is really cool.”

According to a press release, nearly $4,000 was raised at the event, which featured comments from Hudson and Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner between sets one and two. 

“Being able to do something like this for someone like Alyssa, that stuff is way bigger than what we do as coaches and players,” Skinner said in a release. “I was glad we could be a small part of it.”

The Lady Toppers’ official season opener is Aug. 30 against Loyola (Chicago) in the Toledo Blue and Gold Tournament in Toledo, Ohio. The meeting will be the third matchup between the two teams. The Ramblers currently lead the all-time series over WKU, 2-0.

Reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.