Lady Toppers win Bobcat Invitational, start season 3-0

Junior setter Jessica Lucas (1) sets the ball during WKU’s game against UTSA on Oct. 9, 2015, at Diddle Arena. Abbey Tanner/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

The Lady Toppers started off the season 3-0 after sweeping their way through the Bobcat Invitational hosted by the University of Ohio in Athens, Ohio.

“I’m really proud of their grit and their determination,” Head Coach Travis Hudson said. “I thought we really fought all weekend and couldn’t be happier being 3-0 after winning a quality tournament like that one.”

WKU went to work immediately in its first contest of the 2016-17 campaign taking down the Ohio Bobcats in four sets on Friday, Aug. 26.

Hudson and company took advantage of a packed house as 3,863 fans were in attendance to see WKU hold the Bobcats to a hitting rate of just .220.

Junior outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh led the way with her third 20-kill outing of her career.

“Alyssa may have been the best player in college volleyball this weekend,” Hudson said. “When you look at her combined numbers for the weekend, she had five kills a set and hit .435 as an outside hitter. Those numbers are unheard of for an outside hitter and she absolutely put us on her back at times.”

Sophomore middle hitter Rachel Anderson and sophomore outside hitter Taylor Dellinger added 15 and 11 kills respectively.

“Rachel was terrific,” Hudson said. “She’s another kid that had a monster weekend for us; she and Alyssa really led the way for us offensively. She [Anderson] is a big time talent and we need her to play the way she played this weekend for us to win at a high level.”

Dellinger added double-digit kills in the match against Ohio despite playing with a dislocated kneecap.

“Taylor just knew we needed her and got out there and just did the best she could,” Hudson said. “She’s far from 100 percent but the fact that she played in all three matches for us shows the toughness that that kid possesses.”

Junior setter Jessica Lucas brought her All-American skill set to Athens and was ready to put it on display in front of the big crowd.

Lucas racked up 52 assists in the four-set match coming just four assists short of her career high. Lucas finished with a career high 19 digs to go along with seven kills.

“The kid [Lucas] just gives you everything she has every night,” Hudson said. “That’s just who she is and that’s what we have come to expect from her being an all American.”

WKU continued the high level of play on Saturday, Aug. 27, to get the wins over both Villanova University and Florida Gulf Coast University in 3-0 and 3-1 victories.

Against Villanova, the Lady Toppers threw down 49 kills led by Junior outside hitter Sydney Engle’s 13. Anderson and Cavanaugh each added 12 of their own.

WKU hit .298 on the match compared to .203 for the Wildcats. Engle also finished with 13 digs and a pair of service aces.

The Lady Toppers’ matchup with FGCU was the first in program history.

Cavanaugh led the way once again for the Lady Toppers as she put up an impressive stat line. The All-American notched a career high 23 kills to go along with a .538 hitting clip.

Anderson and Dellinger added 15 and nine kills in the match, respectively.

Three Lady Toppers were named to the Bobcat Invitational All-Tournament Team: Engle, Anderson and tournament MVP, Cavanaugh.

“We were really low-error offensively,” Hudson said. “Our serving was kind of up and down, but we hit way over .300 as a team over the weekend which is just phenomenal.”

Next up on the schedule for the Lady Toppers is Austin Peay University. The Lady Toppers will travel to Clarksville, Tennessee, to take on the Governors on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The match is set to start at 6 p.m.

“It’s a quick turnaround to Austin Peay,” Hudson said. “We just have to play better assignment volleyball, everybody’s gotta do their job every play.”

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