Successful road trip helps Lady Toppers build momentum in conference

Casey McCarthy

The Lady Toppers took steps in the right direction by picking up back-to-back wins on a Texas road trip following three straight losses.

After wins over Texas-San Antonio and Texas-El Paso, WKU sits at 16-9 (7-3 Conference USA) with four matches left before the conference tournament.

“This was a big weekend of growth for our team,” head coach Travis Hudson said in a press release after Sunday’s match against UTSA. “This is a long road trip on top of a facing a great opponent today. I’m very proud of my kids.”

WKU has matchups against Florida Atlantic and Florida International left on the schedule this season. Both are separated from the Lady Toppers by less than one game in the conference standings. WKU’s win over UTSA was major, as the Roadrunners currently sit one spot above the Lady Toppers in the conference standings.

The Lady Toppers opened the past weekend with a sweep of UTEP on Friday night in El Paso, Texas. It’s just the second time the Miners have been swept in conference play this year. WKU finished with a .426 offensive rate as a unit while matching the high for kills as a team in C-USA with 57.

Four WKU players finished with double-digit kills with senior Rachel Anderson leading the way with 17. Freshman Katie Isenbarger and junior Sophia Cerino had 12 with freshman Lauren Matthews chipping in 10.  

Redshirt freshman Taylor Bebout facilitated the offense, finishing with 47 assists, four digs, a pair of aces and a kill. Defensively, freshman Payton Frederick led the way with 12 digs.

With the win, the Lady Toppers managed to halt a three-game slide and remain perfect against the Miners all-time (7-0).

“We needed a win and playing at UTEP has been a challenge for Conference USA teams all season long,” Hudson said.

Finishing up the Texas road trip, the Lady Toppers headed to San Antonio for a matchup against UTSA on Sunday. WKU took the match in four sets, 3-1 (25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 25-23).

Anderson and Cerino combined for 33 kills in the match, 19 and 14 respectively. Anderson had five blocks, two digs and a pair of aces in the match, as well.

Three Lady Toppers managed to finish the match with double-digit digs. Frederick led the team with 16 while sophomores Darby Music and Hallie Shelton each had 10.  Shelton tied a career high with four aces in the match.

Bebout facilitated the offense for the second match in a row, finishing with 45 assists, four kills and three digs. With the win, the Lady Toppers remain perfect on the road in conference play.

The Lady Toppers will play one of their final home matches of the season this weekend with a matchup against FIU at 6 p.m. on Friday. WKU will finish its home schedule when FAU comes to visit on Sunday. That game is set to start at noon.

WKU currently sits fourth in the conference standings, trailing Rice, FAU and UTSA in that order. The Lady Toppers will look to make a final push before the C-USA Tournament, which will be in Huntington, West Virginia, this year.

Reporter Casey McCarthy can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]