Lady Toppers capitalize in home opener

Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Dellinger (21) tips the ball during WKU’s match against Belmont on Tuesday, Sept. 6 in Diddle Arena. Dellinger had three spikes and seven kills during the match. Lex Selig/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

The 23rd ranked WKU volleyball (7-1) team played their first home match of the season Tuesday, Sept. 6 as they took on Belmont University (6-0).

The Lady Toppers were able to take down the Bruins, arguably the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference, in straight sets to get the first home victory of the season as they will take on three tough opponents later on in the week in the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational.

Despite the victory, the team experienced a scary moment in the game when junior outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh went down in the second set with an apparent left leg injury after colliding with fellow All-American teammate, junior setter Jessica Lucas.

When the two clashed, Diddle Arena went silent immediately as play continued for a brief period of time with Cavanaugh still on the ground until Head Coach Travis Hudson got the attention of the referee to stop play.

“I thought one All-American injury would be enough for me this year and we are just dodging bullets a little bit,” Hudson said. “We are fortunate that it looks like she is gonna be ok. I mean two All-Americans collide flying around for a ball back there; that tells you what our team was like tonight. You can’t fault them for the effort level we played with.”

Despite leaving in the second set, Cavanaugh led the team on the offensive side of the ball. The outside hitter finished the night with eight kills on 23 attempts hitting .261.

Sophomore middle hitter Rachel Anderson also finished with eight kills as sophomore outside hitter Taylor Dellinger finished with seven kills. WKU finished the night with a .287 hitting percentage.

Senior defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell put up a match high 16 digs and Engle had 10 of her own. The Lady Topper defense held the Bruins to an abysmal .085 hitting percentage.

Big Ten conference member Michigan State University will be making its first trip to Diddle Arena on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 5 p.m. The Spartans hold a 5-1 record with their only loss coming from 8th-ranked University of Florida.

They are also recognized as the 26th ranked team in the AVCA poll. Hudson knows they pose the greatest threat to his team this weekend.

“Well I mean Michigan State is a Big Ten team, perennial NCAA tournament team,” Hudson said. “But all three of these teams are fabulous volleyball teams.”

The Lady Toppers will first play the University of Cincinnati in the tournament at 1 p.m. on Friday. Hailing from the American Athletic Conference, the Lady Bearcats currently field a 4-2 record to its name so far this season.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, WKU will play the Salukis of Southern Illinois who are 6-1. SIU currently fields victories over Murray State University and the University of Central Florida, respectively.

“Literally any win will be a great win this weekend,” Hudson said. “We still gotta play better assignment volleyball.”

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