Cavanaugh’s Record Night Powers Lady Toppers to Home-Opening Win

Junior Taylor Dellinger (21) goes up to block Tennessee State Rachel Henderson (5), during WKU’s game on Tuesday night. WKU women’s volleyball team wins their first home game against Tennessee State in Diddle Arena.

Clay Manlove

Alyssa Cavanaugh took advantage of the bright lights again, breaking the WKU hitting percentage record with a .818 mark on the way to leading WKU to a home-opening 3-0 sweep (25-12, 25-15, 25-15) of Tennessee State on Tuesday evening in Diddle Arena. 

“I expect myself to come out and play my game every night,” Cavanaugh said of her achievement. “I just want to show off our team and I’m glad I got to do that tonight. I couldn’t have done it without our defense and the support from our fan base.” 

The senior outside hitter worked closely in correlation with fellow senior setter, Jessica Lucas, to give the Tiger defense fits all over the court. Lucas set most of Cavanaugh’s shots with 38 assists on the night. 

“Travis [Hudson] always puts the word ‘trust’ in (Jessica and I’s) heads,” said Cavanaugh. “That’s what me and her have in each other. Whenever we’re struggling, we can always count on each other to pull us out of that.” 

The duo of Cavanaugh and Lucas ultimately set Cavanaugh up to lead the Lady Toppers with 18 kills on 22 swings. 

“Alyssa Cavanaugh went out and did what we need a senior to do in matches like this in being consistent and being a presence,” said WKU head coach Travis Hudson. “The thing I’m going to miss the most about her is that she shows up every night. When the bright lights are on, she’s ready to compete.” 

The Lady Toppers started the match with a 10-4 lead thanks to four kills from Rachel Anderson and seven assists by Lucas before WKU took their first timeout. 

After the timeout, the Lady Toppers expanded their lead to 16-5 thanks to three straight service aces from Hallie Shelton, prompting the Tigers to take a timeout of their own. 

After another timeout by Tennessee State, Shelton’s kill gave WKU a 25-12 win in the first set. 

The second set started at a closer margin, as the Lady Tops led 10-6 during a Tennessee State timeout but pulled away to win the set 25-15 thanks to nine kills by Cavanaugh. 

The Tigers again held strong with the Lady Toppers in the third set, trailing only 16-13 at one point in the frame before two kills apiece from Anderson and Cavanaugh and a set-winning service ace by Emma Kowalkowski. 

Despite the win, coach Hudson pointed out problems surrounding the Lady Toppers’ service game, as WKU committed 13 service errors in the match. 

“We’re not serving the ball very well right now,” said Hudson. “It’s like free throw shooting, when you start missing you start to get tight and then it gets worse. If we compete, all of that tightness will go away and it will be fine.” 

WKU travels to Louisville this weekend for a three-game slate in the Cardinal Classic at the University of Louisville. The Lady Toppers will face Louisville at 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon followed by Saturday matchups between Illinois at 9:30 a.m. and Kent State at 4:30 p.m. (all times Central). 

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