Lady Toppers set eyes on C-USA Championship

Clay Manlove

The Lady Topper volleyball team is shaking off the dust from its 3-2 loss in last Thursday’s regular season finale at North Texas as WKU prepares to host the Conference USA Championship in Diddle Arena this weekend.

Despite dropping its first conference match since 2015, WKU saw three players rack up double figures in kills on its way to another stellar offensive performance against the Mean Green.

“Obviously, that was a tremendous volleyball match we were a part of down at North Texas,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said on Monday. “When you haven’t faced a lot of adversity in a while, you wonder what you’re going to be like in that moment. We walked into a hornet’s nest down there and I loved how our kids responded – they fought.”

Despite the late-season loss to the Mean Green, the Lady Toppers remained at No. 32 in the NCAA’s new RPI rankings on Monday morning, which gave Hudson a sigh of relief regarding WKU’s NCAA Tournament chances.

“I don’t think that there’s been a team over the last five or six years that’s been above 40 in the RPI [in the NCAA tournament],” Hudson said. “We’re not in a position that’s been given to us. We’re in a position that was gone out and earned. This week is about playing so that we make sure that we can rest easy over the Thanksgiving holiday.”

The Lady Toppers will now turn their attention on securing their fourth-straight conference title, welcoming seven other teams into Bowling Green for this weekend’s Conference USA Volleyball Championship Tournament.

“Playing in our own gym, all of us are that much more excited going into the tournament,” senior Sydney Engle said on Monday. “This is what we’ve been working all year for, so I definitely think that we’re moving in the right direction as a team. I’m just really excited to end my season and my career [at Diddle] where I started. It’s an incredible feeling that I don’t think I could put into words.”

Hudson said that having to deal with exterior distractions leading up to the matches in Diddle may pose as a problem, from friends and family of the players anxious of how they will get into the game to anticipated bigger events such as WKU’s home football game on Friday night and a men’s basketball game in Diddle five hours after Sunday’s championship match at noon.

“It certainly outweighs going on the road and playing it,” Hudson said of playing host. “We’ll be able to sleep in our own beds and play on a court that’s familiar to us and doing it in front of our great fans, and we’re looking forward to all of those things.”

Playing in front of an average attendance of 517 per match, the Lady Toppers have stressed the importance of fan involvement in their success over the 2017 season and will get a chance to play in front of an expectedly larger crowd in the conference tournament.

“We’ve gotten so close with all of the people that come to our games, so part of us wants to play for them,” senior Alyssa Cavanaugh said. “All of the people that come in, the players, the fans, the teams, all of that is just amazing. Being able to end on that is just incredible.”

Another positive heading into the weekend? The Lady Toppers are healthy.

“We’re going into this tournament about as healthy as we’ve been in a couple of months,” Hudson said. “It seems like we’ve had things that have been lingering all year that the kids have had to deal with, but I think that we’re in pretty good shape.”

The Lady Toppers have secured the No. 2 seed in the tournament and will face No. 7 seed Charlotte on Friday at noon in the first round. WKU swept the 49ers 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-20) on Sept. 24.

“It’s been a big bounce-back year for [Charlotte],” Hudson said. “They’re a tremendously physical blocking team, so it’s going to be important that we stay in our system. They’re a very spirited team and we just need to match the intensity level that they bring.”

Other first-round matchups for Friday’s slate include No. 3 Rice against No. 6 Southern Miss (2 p.m.), No. 1 North Texas against No. 8 Marshall (5 p.m.) and No. 4 UTSA against No. 5 Florida Atlantic (7 p.m.).

Reporter Clay Manlove can be reached at

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