WKU ready to begin Conference-USA play

Junior setter Jessica Lucas (1) block a shot during WKU’s 3-0 win over Belmont Sept. 6 in Diddle Arena. Matt Lunsford/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

After a solid weekend outing with a win in the Panther Challenge, the Lady Toppers volleyball team bounced back into the AVCA top 25.

This Friday, WKU will be kicking off conference play in Diddle Arena as Head Coach Travis Hudson is excited to begin league play, he said.

“We know we got a target on our back after the last two years and being ranked in the top 25 so far, but there’s things we can be a lot better at,” Hudson said.

The Lady Tops are excited to take on some familiar faces within conference play as well.

“There’s always pressure going into conference [play], we know we have a target on our back,” senior defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell said. “Everyone is going to play out of their minds against us. There’s always a little pressure, but at the same time I think having that is good.”

“We kinda like it [the target on the back] we’ll take the challenge,” junior outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh said. “Now we will get our scouting reports so we will have a little more responsibility for these teams.”

The first Conference-USA opponent of the year is Florida Atlantic University (5-9), who currently has a quality win over Georgetown University.

“They are always one of the teams that are highly respected in the league by me,” Hudson said. “They are really competitive, and they play hard.”

FAU is led offensively by senior outside hitter Maja Ristic. The native Bosnian has 190 kills on the season, good for 3.39 kills per set.

Sophomore setter Ivone Martinez has put together 341 assists up to this point in the year. Martinez also has seven service aces on the season.

Defensively the Owls have been led by senior libero, Nathalie Rosado, a Florida native. She has 251 digs on the season, over 100 more than the player with the second most digs on the squad.

The first serve of the match is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena.

Sunday, the Lady Tops will welcome the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (6-8) to Bowling Green to round out the weekend’s competitions.

Charlotte is coming off a loss to Furman University and will be looking to get their season back on track when they take on WKU.

Some key players to watch for Charlotte as they take on the Lady Tops include freshman outside hitter Molly Shaw who leads the 49ers in kills with 163 on the year.

Freshman Sofie Perrens has 296 assists this season which equates to 5.29 per set, and on the defensive side of the ball senior defensive specialist Shelby Green leads the way with 262 digs.

WKU has had another successful non-conference stretch as it has posted a 12-2 record. However, the ladies know they have a target on their back once again as conference play begins.

“You kinda think about how we played teams last year, the competition is always gonna be there. I think our mentality is good,” O’Connell said. “Every time we step on the court you know we are playing for each other.”

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