Rachel Anderson’s emergence has been the glue for the Lady Toppers’ success

Junior middle hitter Rachel Anderson continues her third year on WKU’s women’s volleyball team. During WKU’s last game at Charlotte, Anderson scored a season-high in with 22. Anderson started volleyball when she was a kid, “It’s given me a lot of opportunities in life. Things I never would have experienced,” Anderson said.

Clay Manlove


Sometimes coaches can just tell when a player is going to be different. Whether it’s their demeanor on the court or their personality off of it, it’s not hard to spot a standout talent.

For WKU women’s volleyballhead coach Travis Hudson, he knew he had seen something special when he first watched Rachel Anderson

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a player that I knew would be perfect for the system that we run here [until] I laid eyes on her,” Hudson said. “From that point, it was just about convincing her.”

A standout volleyball and basketball star at Sturgis High School in Sturgis, Michigan, Anderson broke multiple school records and earned the titles of an all-state, all-conference and MVP player on the volleyball court. She also broke a pair of school records on the hardwood as the school’s all-time leader in 2-point field goals and blocked shots. Hudson couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

“During the recruiting process, Travis made me keep calling him to kind of get to know each other to be able to find out things about myself that he didn’t know,” Anderson said. “The coaching staff was the main thing that got me hooked along with the success and culture that they had built here. I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.”

Upon arriving at WKU, Anderson was immediately thrown into the heat, starting all 36 matches as the middle hitter in her rookie campaign while scooping up Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors after finishing fifth on the squad with 234 kills.

“Rachel is a pretty laid-back kid in general, and I think that served her well early on in her career,” Hudson said. “She definitely wasn’t ready to do some of the things that we asked of her early on, but not a whole lot fazes her.”

Even Anderson didn’t expect the immediate success that she had.

“I knew before the season started that I was going to be a starter, but I never would have dreamed of having the success that I ended up having in my freshman year,” Anderson said.

As her Lady Topper career continued, Anderson picked up where she left off in her sophomore year by being earning the C-USA Tournament MVP after notching 31 kills against Rice in the championship game, becoming only the third Lady Topper to ever record 30 kills in a match. She also established herself in Lady Topper history with the second-best single season hitting percentage in program history with a .414 clip on the season.

Along with her gaudy offensive numbers, Anderson amassed 102 total blocks as a sophomore in 2016.

Anderson’s calm and cool demeanor on the court makes her playing style noticeable to everyone who watches, including her teammates.

“Her range and ability to finish plays at the net takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of Alyssa [Cavanaugh] and I,” senior setter and teammate Jessica Lucas said of Anderson. “With this ability, teams have to respect her and then we can get a match-up wherever we want it.”

Over the summer of 2017, Anderson tried out for the U.S. Collegiate National Team in Colorado and was eventually one of only 32 players to receive an invitation to train with the team.

“It was a lot of fun and I was able to build a lot of relationships with many different collegiate athletes that I didn’t know,” Anderson said. “I think the volleyball aspect of being on the team was overshadowed by those two characteristics.”

Although being a powerful force within the front-row trio of herself, Lucas and Cavanaugh, Anderson believes she still has plenty of room for improvement.

“I feel like I could improve on all aspects of my game, especially blocking and serving because they are ones that I continue to struggle with,” she said.

While appreciating her modesty, her head coach is quick to give her praise.

“Rachel is not one of those players that thinks that she is the greatest,” Hudson said. “Being the laid-back kid that she is, she has to realize what kind of impact that she makes on the kids around her.”

If one thing has grown most about Rachel since she started her career as a Lady Topper, it has been her increased sense of leadership.

“It’s been amazing to watch Rachel grow into the player and person that she is today,” Lucas said. “We always joke with her about how quiet and shy she was when she first stepped on campus, but anyone that knows her now knows that she is not like that anymore. She is one of the best teammates I have ever had on and off the court, and I will definitely miss playing next to her.”

Playing between two Lady Topper greats in the making in Cavanaugh and Lucas, Hudson said that Anderson’s success will need to continue rising into her final season on the Hill.

“She will definitely have to take on a greater role next year,” Hudson said. “Every year that she has been here she has done more for us, and when the time comes to step into that role, we can trust her to do it because she is always willing to do what is asked of her.”

As for Hudson, the 23-year head coaching veteran at the helm of the Lady Toppers, he believes that the Lady Topper faithful has not yet seen it all from Rachel Anderson.

“Getting her to see what she can do for our program has been a huge reward to me,” Hudson said. “I don’t think she understood how good she had the chance to be, but little by little I think that she is starting to realize that. I push her as hard as I can because I know that there is more there and hopefully we can find that by the end of her career.”

In due time, Anderson looks to complete her degree in sports management, but will look to take an interesting twist after her volleyball days at WKU are over.

“I’m considering playing basketball after I graduate, if that works out,” Anderson said. “If not that, hopefully I can find an internship in sports management with some kind of professional sports team.”

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