Lady Toppers suffer first home loss in two years, still win tournament

Senior middle hitter Rachel Anderson (4) spikes the ball over the net past ETSU for one of her 10 kills at Diddle Arena Sept. 14. Anderson had 10 kills and four blocks for the Lady Toppers in a 3-0 win against the Bucs.

Casey McCarthy

One of the rarest occurrences in WKU athletics happened Friday as WKU volleyball had its 28-match home winning streak broken.

The 28-match streak was the longest active home win streak in the country. No. 22 Washington State snapped the streak Saturday in four sets. WKU still won the weekend tournament because of best set record percentage after three teams in the field tied with a 2-1 record.

Junior Sophia Cerino received her first All-Tournament Team nod while being name MVP as well. Cerino finished the final match of the weekend on Saturday, Sept. 15, against Northern Illinois with a career-high 19 kills.

“I’ve worked hard every day and the team has been awesome,” Cerino said. “We all push each other to get better every single day and I feel like this is possible because of them. I’m so proud of everybody, and I thought everybody played well, and I’m so proud that we were able to pull it out.”

Cerino is second on the team in kills this year and leads the team in aces as the Lady Toppers head into conference play.

WKU had to climb out of a 2-1 set deficit in its final match of the weekend against Northern Illinois to claim the tournament title. The Lady Toppers took the final match of the weekend 3-2 (25-19, 17-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-9).

Freshman Payton Frederick had a career-best 20 digs against the Huskies in her first start at libero, while junior Emma Kowalkowski and sophomore Hallie Shelton finished in double digits as well. Three Lady Toppers finished with double-digit kills, including Cerino, Anderson and freshman Katie Isenbarger.

The Lady Toppers began the weekend on Friday with a sweep against East Tennessee State, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-22).  Anderson and sophomore Kayland Jackson led WKU with 10 kills apiece. Anderson now owns 10 double-digit kill outings this season.

Kowalkowski led the team with eight digs as redshirt freshman Taylor Bebout finished with 24 assists and seven digs in the match.  

Against WSU in the second match of the day, the Lady Toppers were unable to hold on to an early 1-0 set lead as the Cougars came out on top in four, winning 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 25-14, 25-23). Tied at 23 in the fourth set, WKU was unable to force a fifth set. All but one of WKU’s defeats this year have come from opponents who have been ranked or received votes in the poll.

Head coach Travis Hudson said the team surrendered too many points to a quality team.

“They’re the biggest team in college volleyball,” Hudson said. “We were what we’ve been. We had stretches where we played well, we had stretches where we didn’t.”

Anderson and Cerino led WKU in kills in the match with 15 and 11 respectively. Sophomore Darby Music led the team in digs for the first time this year with 11. The loss ended the nation’s longest home-winning streak at 28 straight victories.

The Lady Toppers will face Cincinnati at home at 6 p.m. on Tuesday before conference play begins with Middle Tennessee and Charlotte coming to the Hill over the weekend.

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