Lady Toppers return to Diddle in style

WKU volleyball celebrates a kill during their game Friday in E.A. Diddle Arena. WKU beat LA Tech 3-0.

Clay Manlove


The return home to Diddle Arena brought out many key components for the Lady Topper volleyball team as WKU picked up a pair of conference wins in the weekend slate.

WKU dominated the pair of conference matches, beating both Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee 3-0 on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

In one of their poorest offensive performances of the season, the Lady Toppers took down LA Tech on Friday evening while hitting at a .235 percentage, well below their season average of .336 and their second-lowest showing since hitting a .151 clip in the loss to Louisville.

In this match, WKU had no choice but to rely on its defense, which has been a key focus point in practice for the Lady Toppers over the last few weeks.

“We’ve been struggling to be consistent on defense all season,” junior middle blocker Rachel Anderson said. “It definitely wasn’t good that our offense struggled, but it was good to see that we had our defense there to back it up.”

WKU held the Lady Techsters to a .053 clip on the night while out-digging LA Tech 51-33, senior right-side hitter Sydney Engle leading the way with 13 digs.

“We’ve been really focused on defense lately,” Engle said. “It feels good to know that if our offense does struggle, we can still win games defensively.”

The Lady Toppers’ 51 digs in the match were the most cumulative digs by the team in a three-setter since the opening weekend of the season, and the defensive effort could not have come at a better time.

“It was one of our poorer offensive showings of the year,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. “Because we weren’t where we were supposed to be offensively, it was time that we stepped up and won a game on the defensive side.”

The WKU offense more than rebounded in Sunday’s match against MTSU, blistering the Blue Raiders with a .507 hitting clip as Alyssa Cavanaugh took charge with 11 kills and Anderson recorded a .727 hitting percentage to go along with nine kills.

“It’s nice to see our offense performing well because we kind of rely on them more than we should,” Engle said. “With the way our defense is playing, I think we’re putting all of the pieces together to be unstoppable.”

Hudson mixed up the lineup to begin the game against the Blue Raiders, choosing to start junior Taylor Dellinger and freshman Darby Music over normal starters Cavanaugh and Hallie Shelton.

“Our depth needed some minutes,” Hudson said. “We’ve been at such a tough stretch on our schedule, and we were able to jump out on some people this weekend and get some younger players some more playing time, and it will serve us well going forward being able to keep those kids in a rhythm.”

With all of the bright spots that came out of the weekend slate, WKU’s win over MTSU marked its 29th-straight win over Conference USA opponents, tying the conference record. Additionally, the Lady Toppers have not lost to a conference opponent at home since the 2011 season (Sun Belt and C-USA).

“We’re always trying to accomplish things that haven’t been done before,” Engle said. “It’s not at the forefront of our minds to break records, but it’s definitely a good feeling and I couldn’t be any prouder of my teammates.”

Hudson showed praise for his team, reiterating that it is not easy to be able to show up and play on the highest level every day.

“The thing that is most remarkable about putting a win streak like that together is how that many college kids show up that many times in a row ready to play,” Hudson said. “It’s tough with road trips, tests, sicknesses and everything else that go along with it. Our kids being able to show up that many times in a row is a really nice feeling.”

The Lady Toppers are now 17-2 on the season and will return to Diddle on Friday to take on conference rival Southern Miss (11-7). After that, WKU will welcome in a challenging rival in Austin Peay (16-2) on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

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