Lady Toppers scorch UAB on Senior Day

Clay Manlove

On a day where WKU Volleyball’s five seniors were honored, the Lady Topper offense found its rhythm again in a dominant 3-0 win (25-14, 25-15, 25-20) over Alabama-Birmingham.

After minor offensive struggles over the last three matches, WKU (25-2 overall, 11-0 Conference USA) hit over .535 in two of their three sets and finished with an overall .477 hitting percentage on the match.

“We were as good offensively as we’ve been in a while,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. “We had a really good balance today. Some people that don’t necessary carry a big load like Taylor Dellinger played well, and it really balanced us out.”

Dellinger indeed carried her load in Sunday’s match, tallying 12 kills, which tied for most kills in the match with fellow teammate Sydney Engle.

“We’ve worked with [Dellinger] on hitting different balls and how it’s freed her up on the block,” Engle said. “She’s definitely filled the position that we needed her to fill. I feel so confident in giving her the ball when I know that she is going to get a kill.”

The Lady Toppers started took a 13-7 lead to begin the first set to force a UAB timeout before taking the set 25-14 thanks to four kills apiece from Dellinger, Jessica Lucas and Rachel Anderson.

The Lady Toppers hit at a .552 hitting percentage in the first set while the Blazers mustered a .242 as Haley Jared led UAB with seven kills.

WKU took the second set in a similar 25-15 fashion as Dellinger expanded her kill count to nine while Engle tallied eight through two sets as the Lady Toppers combined for a .483 hitting percentage in set two.

Early in the third set, Lucas tallied her 5,000th career assist on the way to helping the Lady Toppers take a back-and-forth set three, 25-20.

“My dad’s a big numbers guy; he’s a math teacher, so he let me know before the match,” Lucas said about getting her 5,000th career assist. “I don’t really pay attention to the stats, but it’s definitely a great accomplishment to get.”

The announcement of Lucas’s milestone came at the pleasure of a noisy fan base in Diddle Arena and also to the pleasure of her fellow seniors.

“She deserves it; she works her butt off,” fellow senior Alyssa Cavanaugh said. “I’m proud of her and all of her accomplishments and being able to reach the milestone she did today, especially on her senior day.”

Lucas finished three kills shy of a double-double, tallying 35 assists and seven kills on the afternoon. Anderson also added seven kills behind Cavanaugh’s eight.

Afterward, the senior class spent time reflecting on their senior day and gave praise to all of the fans who made it special to them.

“It doesn’t feel real right now,” senior Maggie Singleton said. “It hasn’t really set in yet, but I’m sure after the Conference Tournament is over, the emotions will come running through me.”

Fellow senior Amara Listenbee agreed.

“You can’t break that bond [with your teammates] at all,” Listenbee said. “I started off rooming with Alyssa [Cavanaugh] and it was a blast. Just getting to know all of these girls as my sisters has been great.”

The Lady Toppers will be back on the road this Friday when they visit Rice, who was the last team to hand the Lady Toppers a conference loss, 3-2 on Oct. 31, 2015. WKU topped the Owls in Houston in last season’s C-USA Volleyball Championship, 3-2.

“It’s almost an automatic five-setter when we play Rice,” said Hudson. “We went there and won the conference championship on their court last year, and I’m certain that there’ll be quite an atmosphere [in Houston] on Friday as they try to return the favor.”

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