WKU winning streak snapped in Houston

WKU’s outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh (7) spikes the ball towards UTSA during the final set of the Lady Toppers’ 3-1 win Friday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Matthew Stewart

The Lady Toppers took their first loss since Sept. 11 this past Saturday in a clash with Rice in Houston that took five sets to decide.

The defeat to the Owls ended a 17-game win streak and was the first game the team has dropped to a Conference USA opponent this season.

After the weekend, the Lady Toppers saw their stock fall two places in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll and are now ranked the No. 24 team in the country.

Head Coach Travis Hudson has had his eye on Rice all season, saying in a preseason interview that Rice is one of the best teams in the conference.

“We knew it was going to be a battle going in there,” Assistant Coach Kristi Griffin said. “All year I think that was the match — being a rematch of the tournament championship — that we knew it was going to be a challenge.”

The Lady Toppers fell quickly in the match and were down two sets heading into the break.

WKU came out of intermission and was able to equalize with two set victories to force a fifth frame.

Sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh led the offensive attack with a season-high 19 kills.

Senior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp trailed closely as she had 14 kills to go along with a team-high .419 hitting percentage.

Senior outside hitter Sydney Engle had a career-high 12 kills on the night.

The defensive side saw freshman middle hitter Rachel Anderson show her abilities through some physical play. Anderson swatted a career-high seven blocks. Cavanaugh also notched three in the block column.

“It was great to see Rachel do that,” Griffin said. “We focused on blocking with her all week and getting her blocking numbers up. She is starting to play with a lot more confidence, which I think is good to see.”

Before Saturday’s loss, the Tops had only lost one conference game since joining C-USA in 2014 to the University of Texas at San Antonio.

After the loss to Rice in Houston, the Lady Toppers made their way to El Paso to take on UTEP. The Lady Tops won in sweeping fashion, which marks their 15th straight sweeping victory this year.

A heavy-hitting offense led the way for the rest of the team in the match on Sunday. As a team, WKU managed a .376 hitting clip.

Leading the offense after having been the anchor on defense the game before, Anderson made a career-high .667 hitting percentage with eight kills on 12 attacks.

Senior outside hitter Haley Bodway had a game-high 12 kills with a .556 hitting clip.

Langenkamp, Cavanagh and Engle each threw down nine kills.

The Lady Topper defense held the Miners to a .116 hitting percentage. Junior defensive specialist Georgia O’Connel’s 12-dig performance played a large role in containing the Miners attack.

“It’s always tough to come back from a gut punch — losing in the fifth set — and then having to turn around and fly to UTEP and play the next day,” Griffin said. “Our kids showed a lot of character bouncing back and getting a sweep.”

WKU is now sitting at 24-3 overall and 11-1 in conference play.

The Lady Toppers are back on the road this weekend as they head down to Miami to take on Florida International on Nov. 6 and to Boca Raton to take on Florida Atlantic on Nov. 8.