Lady Toppers erase slow start in 3-0 win over UTEP

WKU senior Jessica Lucas (1) sets the ball to Rachel Anderson (4) during a game vs. Louisiana Tech on September 29, 2017 in EA Diddle Arena. “There is no one who is able to do what we can do offensively on the court,” head coach Travis Hudson said before the game.

Clay Manlove

WKU made a return to Diddle Arena on Friday night with a hard-fought 3-0 win over Texas-El Paso.

The Lady Toppers did not get off on the right foot, trailing the Miners 16-9 early in the first set before 16-6 run gave them a victory in the set and propelled them through the rest of the match.

“We blew a lot of assignments early on in that match,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. “It’s inexcusable at any moment, but it’s especially inexcusable this late in the year. The importance of each match is starting to grow, and we have to have them ready at the first serve.”

Facing the 16-9 deficit in the first set, the Lady Toppers (22-2 overall, 8-0 C-USA) pulled back within 21-15 and went on a 9-1 run to take the first match 25-22, powered by two service aces from Sophia Cerino.

“UTEP came out prepared and played very well and had us back on our heels a bit,” senior Alyssa Cavanaugh said. “Sophia came out and had a great run and got us back into it and that’s something that we always rely on her to do.”

Despite the Miners’ execution in the first set, WKU was able to coast through the second and third sets at comfortable 25-11 and 25-17 margins, respectively.

After being held to just a .212 clip in the first set, the Lady Toppers bounced back on offense with .406 and .515 percentages in the second and third sets, respectively, to finish the match at .378. The WKU defense stepped up to hold UTEP (4-17 overall, 1-7 C-USA) to a .165 clip on the night.

Alyssa Cavanaugh finished the match with 19 kills on the evening and hit at a .655 clip while Rachel Anderson notched 11 kills at a .429 clip. Sophomore libero Emma Kowalkowski contributed 14 digs on the defensive side of the net for the Lady Toppers.

“I know this will sound crazy, but I don’t think that Alyssa had a good rhythm tonight,” Hudson said. “All of our hitters hurt themselves tonight with errors. She took care of the ball until she was finally able to get into a rhythm toward the end.”

Setter Jessica Lucas racked up 33 assists for the Lady Toppers after suffering a bone bruise and strained ligaments in her elbow last weekend, wearing a brace throughout the entirety of Friday night’s contest.

“You know you’re going to get everything that Jess has. She’s not 100 percent by any means right now, but you can’t hold that kid out, especially this late in the season,” Hudson said.

WKU will be back in Diddle Arena to host Texas-San Antonio on Sunday at noon.

Reporter Clay Manlove can be reached at (270) 724-9620 or at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ctmanlove58.