Ranked Lady Toppers take down Austin Peay

Senior defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell (12) reacts to WKU scoring a point during the Lady Toppers’ match against UTSA on Oct. 9, 2015, at Diddle Arena. Leanora Benkato/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

After a 3-0 sweep of the Bobcat Invitational last week, the WKU volleyball team found their way into the top 20 of the AVCA poll.

“We had an awfully good year a year ago and we obviously got off to a great start this weekend, but I can name 100 things that are more important to me than being ranked 19th in the country,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said.

There were three players that made the all-tournament team; junior outside hitters Alyssa Cavanaugh and Sydney Engle along with sophomore middle hitter Rachel Anderson were honored. Cavanaugh took home the tournament MVP award.

“They deserved it, that was the best weekend of volleyball I’ve ever seen Alyssa Cavanaugh play, and she’s a two-time All-American and she was pretty special,” Hudson said.

With a national ranking of 19th, the Toppers took down the Governors of Austin Peay in straight sets Tuesday night in Clarksville, Tennessee.

The Toppers were led by the core group of players once again on both offense and defense.

Cavanaugh led the offensive attack with 14 kills. Anderson and Engle threw down 10 a piece.

Freshman outside hitter Sophia Cerino also made some noise with a personal best eight kills to her name. WKU ended the match with 54 kills on a .402 hitting clip.

Senior defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell put in work on the defensive side of the net with her 11th 20-dig outing of her Lady Topper career.

Engle, junior setter Jessica Lucas and senior defensive specialist Kaelin Grimes each finished with seven digs. Engle also put in two service aces in the match.

“Those kids [Lucas, Engle, Cavanaugh, O’Connell and Anderson] have been in a lot of big matches in their careers and it’s their turn to lead,” Hudson said. “It’s great to see them step up.”

Hudson said if they were able to start off 4-0 it would mean a lot considering the upcoming matches they have in the next two weeks.

This weekend the Lady Toppers will be back on the court in the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic hosted by Saint Louis University. They will take on Cal Poly, Saint Louis and Arkansas State.

“Cal Poly just beat Rice who was my preseason pick to win our league this year and they are very talented,” Hudson said. “Arkansas State is a team that I think finished 18th in the RPI last year and they are a team that is returning almost everybody. And to play a St. Louis team on their own court there’s no give.”

This upcoming stretch for the volleyball team is probably the toughest stretch of play this season.

“The next two weekends are by far, not even close to the toughest stretch on our schedule. There’s not one match in those six that will be anything less than a war. Any wins are valued,” Hudson said.

Hudson knows that the upcoming games will be tough, but still has confidence in his team.

“If you could ever trust me on anything, trust me that we won’t be six and 0 in the next six matches. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. And we will have to play better,” Hudson said. “We have got to defend better. That’s my biggest issue with our team right now; we have to be more determined to defend.”

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