Lady Tops open conference play with pair of wins

Junior middle hitter Amara Listenbee (11) blocks a spike from Florida Atlantic freshman right side hitter Sigourney Kame (12) during the Lady Toppers’ 3-1 win over FAU on Friday Sept. 23, 2016 at Diddle Arena. Matt Lunsford / HERALD

Matthew Stewart

This past weekend the Lady Topper volleyball team (14-2) kicked off conference play with matches against Florida Atlantic University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

In typical Hilltopper fashion, the Lady Tops won both matches, extending their at home conference win streak to 40 games with the win over Charlotte.

The Owls of Florida Atlantic (5-10) traveled from the sunshine state to Bowling Green for a Friday evening matchup in Diddle Arena in front of a sea of red.

“Friday night was a really nice home crowd Friday night. We are really appreciative to have the band there,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said.

The Lady Tops opened up conference play with a bang in the first set, led by All-American junior Alyssa Cavanaugh.

The outside hitter put on a hitters showcase with seven kills on eight attempts in the first set to close out the opening stanza with an .875 hitting percentage.

“We knew that was a good matchup early for us,” Hudson said. “We were lucky to get out of here with a win.”

The first set performance from Cavanaugh led the way for the Lady Tops throughout the night. WKU would go on to win in four sets, 3-1.

“It’s always good to get that first one,” Hudson said. “I have a lot of respect for FAU, they certainly showed their competitiveness tonight.”

Offensively the Lady Tops looked like a team that was in sync with each other.

Cavanaugh finished the night with a career high 24 kills and a .435 hitting clip. Sophomore middle hitter Rachel Anderson added 12 kills of her own with a .346 hitting percentage. All-American junior setter Jessica Lucas chipped in for five kills accompanied by 46 assists, two blocks and a service ace.

“We are very Alyssa Cavanaugh-dependent right now, and I think we need better balance because we definitely have the talent to do it,” Hudson said.

Defensively, Anderson had a career night with nine blocks, which was more than half of the WKU season high team block total of 17.

“She [Anderson] is as talented of a kid we have had in here at the middle hitter position,” Hudson said.

The second matchup of the weekend was a noon showdown between the Lady Tops and the 49ers of Charlotte (6-10).

Sophomore Taylor Dellinger led the way on Sunday with a career day of her own.

The outside hitter threw down 15 kills followed by Cavanaugh with 11.The outside duo were the only two ladies in red with double digit kills. This was the eighth straight match Cavanaugh has racked up double digit kills.

Lucas finished with 36 assists, 14 digs, six kills and two service aces. The All-American’s performance on the weekend earned her yet another award this season.

The talented setter was named the Conference USA setter of the week for the fourth time this season only five weeks in.

The team did drop out of the top 25 in the AVCA poll after the weekend of competition, but received enough votes to put them one spot out at 26.

“It was a solid weekend in terms of winning,” Hudson said. “It wasn’t a solid weekend in terms of how we played. We are still giving away too many free ones.”

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