Offense continues to shine in conference play for Lady Toppers

Clay manlove

A fire was lit under the WKU volleyball team when they lost to Illinois in the Cardinal Classic in Louisville Sept. 2.

The Lady Toppers have won 11 straight matches since then, eight of those matches on the road.

Week after week, opposing defenses cannot seem to find an answer to WKU’s hot-hitting offense, which ranks first in Conference USA with a .336 hitting percentage.

Sunday afternoon, the Lady Toppers faced a top-ranked Charlotte defense, who had allowed a .144 clip to opponents on the season and blistered them with a .447 clip.

Sept. 15, WKU stormed Columbus, Ohio, and dismantled a No. 25 Ohio State squad on its home floor with a .506 hitting percentage.

In each of those matches, much like their other victories, the Lady Toppers have jumped on opponents early and have not allowed teams to claw back.

Much of the offensive production comes thanks to the dominant front-row trio of Rachel Anderson, Jessica Lucas and C-USA Preseason Player of the Year Alyssa Cavanaugh.

Anderson and Cavanaugh are each tied for third in C-USA statistical standings, each with a .402 hitting clip on the season. Sydney Engle comes in at fifth on the list with a .377 percentage on the season.

Cavanaugh has 248 kills in 2017, good for second in conference standings, while Anderson comes in at fifth on the list with 203 kills. Lucas comes in second on the conference leaderboards with 651 assists.

Defensively, Anderson has come out of the woodworks to tie for third in conference standings with 61 blocks from her middle blocker position as the Lady Toppers have held opponents to just a .190 clip on the season.

In this weekend’s conference opener, the Lady Topper offense put on a show once again in wins over Florida Atlantic and Charlotte.

In the win over FAU, Cavanaugh racked up a career-high 26 kills while hitting at a .521 clip as the Lady Toppers hit .338 as a team. Lucas also put up a season-high 59 assists as WKU survived their first five-set match against the Owls in program history.

The Lady Toppers carried that offensive momentum to Charlotte Sunday afternoon against a stingy 49er defense.

Engle and Anderson both set personal milestones against the Charlotte. Engle posted a career high .722 hitting percentage and Anderson had a season-high 20 kills, both leading the team in the match in those categories. The Lady Toppers hit at a .447 clip in the match.

With two decisive conference wins under their belt, the Lady Toppers will ride momentum into their return home from a long road streak to face conference foe Louisiana Tech Friday evening.

The match against the 5-10 Lady Techsters will kick-start a four-game home stand for WKU, which includes two conference matches against Middle Tennessee State and Southern Mississippi as well as a match against Austin Peay.

With the two conference-opening wins, the Lady Toppers have now won 27 straight C-USA matches since a 3-2 loss to Rice Oct. 31, 2015. Friday night’s match is slated for a 6 p.m. start time.

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