Volleyball team to host annual spring tournament Saturday

WKU senior volleyball players Jessica Lucas (left) and Alyssa Cavanaugh have been selected as 2017 Senior CLASS Award Candidates. 

Tyler Mansfield

After four months since its season ended in the NCAA Tournament, the WKU volleyball team will host its annual spring tournament this weekend at Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers, who finished another successful season in 2016 at 30-3 overall and 14-0 in Conference USA, welcome Lipscomb, Samford and Southern Illinois to the Hill this Saturday to wrap up their spring practice.

Led by head coach Travis Hudson, WKU will open play on Saturday at noon against Lipscomb. The Toppers and Bisons met last year in Diddle on Oct. 11 in a five-set thriller, with the home club winning 3-2.

WKU will play again at 2 p.m. against Southern Illinois before concluding its action with Samford at 5 p.m.

In 2016, the Lady Tops beat SIU, 3-1, on Sept. 9 in the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational. WKU didn’t face off with Samford this past season.

All matches will be two sets to 25 points with no cap and the winner will be determined by set score and point differential when necessary.

In addition to its impressive record in 2016, WKU became just the fourth team in C-USA history to go undefeated in regular-season league play. The Toppers won the outright regular-season championship, the C-USA Tournament championship and faced Boise State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, falling 3-0.

WKU’s 30 wins in 2016 extended its 30-win season steak to three consecutive campaigns while its regular-season conference championship was its sixth-straight.

Additionally, the Lady Toppers’ C-USA Tournament title was their third-straight while their NCAA Tournament birth marked their 10th appearance since 2002 and the sixth appearance in the past seven seasons.

Before that season-ending loss, WKU hadn’t suffered a defeat since a 3-2 setback to Michigan State back on Sept. 10, giving it a 21-match winning streak entering the Big Dance.

Hudson spoke of the success his 2016 squad had after the Tournament loss to Boise State, saying, “This is a disappointing end to the season, but what can you say, this is the first time we’ve lost since Sept. 10. It takes nothing away from the amazing group of kids I’ve had and the incredible season that they’ve had.”

Entering the 2017 campaign, the Lady Toppers return 10 of 12 letterwinners from the 2016 roster, as only senior defensive specialists Kaelin Grimes and Georgia O’Connell graduated from the program.

Returning for WKU are sophomores Sophia Cerino and Emma Kowalkowski, redshirt-junior Amara Listenbee, juniors Rachel Anderson, Taylor Dellinger and Mary Martin and seniors Alyssa Cavanaugh, Sydney Engle, Jessica Lucas and Maggie Singleton.

Cavanaugh and Lucas – both named All-Americans in 2016 – took home honors at WKU’s postseason awards banquet. Cavanaugh was Co-Best Offensive Player while also earning her third-consecutive AVCA recognition with Lucas.

Cavanaugh’s 4.41 kills per set finished second in C-USA and 22nd across the nation, while she also achieved the 1,000-kill milestone of her career during the 2016 season.

Lucas took home the MVP honor and was also named the C-USA Setter of the Year while recording a league-record seven Setter of the Week awards. Lucas also finished sixth across the national with an 11.64 assists per set average. 

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at (270) 935-0007 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @CallMeMansfield.