Despite lack of experience, WKU volleyball stays dominant

Junior outside hitter Haley Bodway goes up for a spike against a North Texas defender during WKU’s match on Sunday. Bodway racked up 10 kills as WKU defeated UNT in four sets. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Elliott Pratt

It’s been business as usual for WKU volleyball.

Remember when Head Coach Travis Hudson said before the season started that he wouldn’t be surprised if things went wrong for his young team, or if his team ran out of the gate on fire?

The Lady Toppers currently sit at 22-5 overall on the year and moved to 10-1 in Conference USA with a 3-1 win over Florida Atlantic on Sunday.

So despite all the inexperience that worried Hudson before the season started, it’s been just another day at the office for the Lady Toppers. But we’ve all had those days where the office is flat out exhausting.

“I’m just spent because every day there’s so much to keep my mind around,” Hudson said. “We’re having to lean heavily on some of our upperclassmen.”

While I trust that Hudson is indeed relying on these upperclassmen, it must be more of an internal or mental leaning.

Three of the top five scorers on this team are freshmen: outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh leads the team with 289 kills, setter Jessica Lucas has 137, and middle hitter Sydney Engle has 133.

And those upperclassmen? Senior middle hitter Heather Boyan and junior middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp are holding down the net with 101 and 88 blocks, respectively.

This freshman class of Cavanaugh, Lucas, Engle, defensive specialist Jackie Scott and middle hitter Amara Listenbee is arguably the best class Hudson has recruited in a long time, and those numbers back that statement up.

But WKU is playing a different style of volleyball this year, and whether you’re dealing with veterans who have been to the NCAA Tournament or 18-year-olds who were taking the ACT less than a year ago, change isn’t easy.

This isn’t a team that’s going to beat opponents like rag dolls in three sets.

It’s much more difficult now with games going right down to the wire.

“It’s not easy to beat teams, but we continue to play and eventually end up on top,” Langenkamp said. “It’s more tiring, but you have to do what you have to do to get the win. It’s just a stamp and a trademark of our team now.”

WKU fans have been spoiled in recent years with the product this team has put on the floor. Outside of last year’s abrupt end in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, the Lady Toppers spent the last two seasons as conference champs with NCAA Tournament trips.

If you include the conference games already played this year along with the last three years in the Sun Belt, WKU is 57-3 in regular-season conference games.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that’s a pretty darn good record.

But Hudson threw all that out the window this year. When the team set its preseason goals in August, he crushed the idea of the reality of this team making an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament because he thought there was no way it would happen this year.

There are still five matches left in the season. There’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong, but there’s also still plenty of time for this team to keep surprising its coach.

“Every day is an obstacle for us,” Hudson said. “The fact that this team — full of youth replacing some of the all-time greats that have ever played here — is 22-5 may be one of the best seasons we’ve had here.”