Lady Toppers earn share of regular season title

Clay Manlove

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The No. 25 Lady Toppers continued to roll through conference play on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 win (25-20, 25-13, 25-16) over Middle Tennessee. 

With the win, WKU earned a share of the Conference USA regular season championship. It’s the Lady Toppers’ fourth consecutive regular season conference title. 

“It’s crazy. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” senior Jessica Lucas said. “Travis [Hudson] was talking about it in the locker room. It was something that we talked about at the beginning of the year, and now all of those things we talked about are starting to come through.” 

The Lady Toppers put together a solid offensive performance, hitting at a .389 clip led by 15 kills and a .385 clip from Rachel Anderson. 

“We pride ourselves on being able to come after you however you want us to,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. “Whatever the defense gives us, we’re going to take. This was a match where they gave some things to Rachel and we took advantage of it.” 

The Blue Raiders jumped out to a 7-4 lead in the first set before WKU rallied for 10 straight points to take a 14-7 lead and force a Blue Raider timeout. MTSU hung around within four point for most of the set, but the Lady Toppers eventually won the first set 25-20. 

The Lady Toppers dominated the second set from the beginning, forcing a Blue Raider timeout after breaking off an 8-1 run to take a 10-3 advantage before winning the set 25-13 to take a 2-0 lead in the match. 

WKU opened a 17-11 lead in the third set before winning the match with a 25-16 win in the set. 

Alyssa Cavanaugh added seven kills while hitting at a .600 clip. Jessica Lucas tallied 27 assists while also racking up a team-high seven digs while Anderson had three blocks for a WKU defense that held the Blue Raiders to a .256 clip on the afternoon. 

Dora Peonia led MTSU (7-21) with 11 kills while hitting at a .269 clip. Bailey Mason added 10 kills for the Blue Raiders while Taylor Hammill picked up 33 assists. Libero Brienna Tankesley had 10 digs for MTSU. 

“It’s always tough playing here,” Hudson said. “MTSU plays so incredibly hard. I’m really excited to get the win in such a tough environment.” 

The Lady Toppers will close out the regular season with a road match against North Texas on Thursday evening. The Mean Green has won 12-straight matches and sits at 24-2 on the season and 11-1 in C-USA play after a 3-0 win over Louisiana Tech on Sunday afternoon. 

“[North Texas] is a lot like us in that they’ve had a lot of seniors that have played a lot of volleyball games,” Hudson said. “A lot of credit goes to [Mean Green head coach Andrew Palileo]; those kids have gotten better every year that he’s been in their program. They’re seniors and they’re playing like seniors.” 

Thursday night’s match against the Mean Green will also be the last regular season match for the Lady Toppers, as they will return to Diddle Arena on Friday Nov. 17 to Sunday Nov. 19, to host the C-USA Championship. 

“We’ve got to lock [North Texas] down defensively,” Lucas said. “We just need to go out and have fun; it’s the last one for our seniors. It’s going to be crazy in that gym, so it will be a fun match.” 

Reporter Clay Manlove can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ctmanlove58.