Lady Toppers notch one win in season-opening tournament

WKU junior Rachel Anderson (4) spikes the ball into the arms of Charlotte sophomore Jocelyn Stoner (18) in the first game of the C-USA Championship Tournament. WKU went on to sweep the tournament, winning it for the fourth year in a row.

Casey McCarthy

WKU volleyball managed to bounce back from its first 0-2 season start since 2012 with a win to close out the weekend at the Hampton Inn Charleston/West Ashley CofC Classic in Charleston, South Carolina.

WKU (1-2) battled three opponents that all finished last season with more than 18 wins, including two NCAA Tournament teams. The last time the Lady Toppers started the season 0-2 was the first time the team reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2012.  

WKU opened its 2018 campaign Friday against Alabama, dropping the match 3-0, the team’s first three-set sweep since early 2017 against Illinois. All three sets were decided by a two-point minimum: 25-23, 28-26, 25-23.

“The difference in [Friday’s] match was experience versus inexperience,” head coach Travis Hudson said in a press release. “Our kids played very hard, we just didn’t make plays at the end of the sets.”

C-USA Preseason Player of the Year Rachel Anderson led her team in kills in her senior-season opener, with a 14-kill, five-block effort. Anderson operated with a .344 offensive clip, adding four digs on the day. Junior Sophia Cerino added a career-high eight kills to go with three blocks.

The loss was the first for WKU against Alabama in three meetings between the two schools, and first season-opening loss for the Lady Toppers since 2012.

On the second day of the tournament, WKU opened the day with a loss in a four-set battle with tournament host College of Charleston, 3-1 (25-23, 25-16, 22-25, 25-20).

WKU opened the match dropping its fourth straight set decided by the two-point minimum. After dropping the first two sets, WKU was able to reset during intermission, coming out to nab their first set victory of the season. The deciding fourth set was a back-and-forth battle that saw neither team able to string together more than three points at a time.

Anderson finished with 18 kills against the Cougars, her most since the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament last season. Cerino topped her career-best kill mark in the next match, notching 11 kills with a .320 hitting clip.

College of Charleston is the first of eight 2017 NCAA Tournament teams WKU will face during the regular season in 2018.

WKU defeated Missouri State 3-1 (18-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-18) to close the weekend. The Bears jumped ahead early, using an early commanding lead to grab the first set before the Lady Toppers bounced back to take the next three.

“Really glad to get a win for our kids today,” Hudson said. “They played hard all weekend long against NCAA Tournament caliber competition. We are not playing very well right now, but continue to improve every time we take the floor together.”

Anderson capped off her weekend with her first career double-double, posting 13 kills and 10 blocks, only the fourth player in program history with multiple double-digit block performances. The senior tallied six digs and two service aces as well.

WKU will return to the Hill to defend what is now the longest active home winning streak in the country at 23 matches. The Lady Toppers will face Belmont in the team’s home opener at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Diddle Arena.

Reporter Casey McCarthy can be reached at 270-929-7795 and [email protected].