Volleyball team searching for normalcy after incident

Volleyball team searching for normalcy after incident

Emily Patton

It’s “normalcy” that volleyball Head Coach Travis Hudson is now seeking — a feeling the Lady Toppers haven’t experienced since before a near-death accident this past Thursday when their bus driver lost consciousness behind the wheel.

Traveling on I-65 South near Athens, Ala., Hudson climbed over the driver, who had a heart attack, took control of the bus and eased it to a stop.

 The driver, a Howard Leasing employee, was later pronounced dead and remains unidentified.

“We are trying to make it as normal as possible for (the team),” Hudson said. “But at the same time, we aren’t trying to ignore the fact that something did happen or that there is something else going on besides volleyball.”

WKU was given the choice by the Sun Belt Conferences to opt out of matches against South Alabama and Troy, but the Lady Toppers decided to continue on instead.

That decision brought about something very normal — a pair of sweeps against Sun Belt opponents. WKU (17-5, 6-1 Sun Belt Conference) has now won nine of its last 10 matches and has swept its opponents in the nine wins.

“They certainly showed some toughness this weekend,” Hudson said. “We are all still pretty much in a state of shock, and we are trying to work through this.

“Their best couple hours of the trip were when they were on the court with each other and putting it behind them.”

But forgetting hasn’t been easy. The Lady Toppers had to make a six-hour drive back to Bowling Green by bus on Saturday after the accident.

“As time goes on, it will get easier and easier, but it is still with us,” sophomore outsider hitter Jordyn Skinner said. “Every bump or sway, we all kind of get a little scared.”

Skinner said traveling, which was never an issue before, has become one after Thursday.

After the experience, the Lady Toppers have already started looking at the remaining matches on the schedule, noting the distances of trips.

Six matches remain at home and four away. The away trips are lengthy enough so that WKU will only have to take a short drive to Nashville before boarding a plane.

Junior middle hitter Lindsay Williams said the situation is going to take some time to get over for the team.

Williams was one of the players thrown from her bunk onto the floor of the bus when it crossed through the center grass median on the interstate and into the northbound lanes.

“I feel like it’s not even real,” Williams said. “We’ve tried not to think about it or talk about it. We want to go forward instead of backward.”

Although the incident is something the Lady Toppers can’t just throw to the past, Williams said it wouldn’t be a crutch that makes it OK to forgo the rest of the season.

“We didn’t want to lose two games and people feel sorry for us,” Williams said. “We just wanted to focus on the fact that we are still alive and that God kept his hand on us and got us through this horrible experience.

“If we can get through a tragedy like this, what can we not get through?”