WKU heads into conference tournament with confidence

Freshman defensive specialist Emma Kowalkowski (3) serves the ball during the Lady Topper volleyball team’s victory over North Texas during senior night on Thursday, Nov. 10, at Diddle Arena. The volleyball team was undefeated in all Conference USA games. Kathryn Ziesig/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

After winning the Conference USA regular season championship and the C-USA tournament last season, the Lady Toppers won the regular season championship this year and  will head into the conference tournament as the number one seed.

Head Coach Travis Hudson led his team to an undefeated 14-0 in conference play to clinch the title of regular season champions for the 2016-17 campaign.

The Lady Tops are currently ranked 20th in the country in the AVCA poll and are 17th in RPI after going 27-2 during the regular season with marquee wins over programs like the University of Cincinnati, the University of Pittsburgh, Villanova University and Belmont University,

Heading into the C-USA tournament, the Lady Tops know all eyes will be on them and teams will bring their best for a chance to take down the tournament favorite.

“I know we’re gonna have a target on our back, but we’re gonna wear that and go in confident,” All-American junior outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh said.

The team has been building up its confidence as the season has progressed. With only two losses on the season the Lady Tops have built their best regular season so far this decade.

“I’m really confident going into the tournament,” senior defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell said.

O’Connell was one of five Lady Tops who earned C-USA All-Conference recognition on Wednesday.

Earning first-team status were sophomore middle hitter Rachel Anderson, Cavanaugh and junior setter Jessica Lucas. WKU volleyball players with second-team nods were O’Connell and junior outside hitter Sydney Engle.

While winning the conference tournament is a tough task, the team has already accomplished something that Hudson says is much more difficult: winning a regular season championship.

“To win a tournament championship you gotta be good for three days and to win a regular season championship you gotta be good for two months,” Hudson said.

Hudson said he is proud of his team and has said throughout the season nobody has had the perseverance this group has had when faced with adversity.

“We’ll never have a group that fights harder than this one,” Hudson said.

First up for the Lady  Tops in C-USA tournament play is the Miners of the University of Texas El Paso.

Earlier in the season the only matchup between the two the Lady Tops swept UTEP 3-0 in which Hudson won his 550th career match.

In the match, Lucas recorded a near triple-double performance with 30 assists, nine kills and nine digs while Cavanaugh led WKU in kills with 12.

The Lady Tops will have to contain Macey Austin of the Miners in the tournament as she recorded 12 kills for UTEP in the Oct. 21 matchup. No one else for the Miners had more than five kills in that contest.

The match is set to begin this Friday at noon in Houston, Texas.

If the Lady Tops advance, their next match will be on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The championship match is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Hudson is confident heading into the postseason, but he has always had a positive outlook for him and his team.

“We’re gonna get knocked off somewhere along the line and when we do it’ll be a team that came out and took it from us that night because this team is gonna come out and fight and that’s all you can ever ask for as a coach,” Hudson said.

Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 270-745-6281 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.