Students raising hill at volleyball games

Hudson’s Hillraisers, the WKU volleyball student section, has been a fixture at home matches since the 2009 season. It’s now made up of more than 50 members. “We try to make the atmosphere like football or basketball games where there are signs, and everyone is painted up,” said John Alexander, a Glasgow junior.

Emily Patton

Top hats, suspenders, painted chests and spontaneous dance moves are just some of the sights that can be seen at the Lady Toppers’ home volleyball matches — but it hasn’t always been this way.

In the summer of 2009, WKU volleyball and the Athletic Marketing department met together to discuss ways to increase enthusiasm and the number of students attending home matches.

Inspired by Head Coach Travis Hudson’s 15 years of coaching experience at WKU, Hudson’s Hillraisers, a student fan group, was born.

Megan Soverns, WKU volleyball’s graduate assistant, said all students have to do is come to a home volleyball match and sign in at the “Hudson’s Hillraisers” table at Entrance 2 of Diddle Arena.

But those that are a part of the team have seen certain students take it up a notch.

A group of six students — Ethan Graves, Taylor Grayson, John Alexander, Zack Rockrohr, Cody Sparks and Ryan Williams — have helped set off the participation in this program by calling themselves “Hudson’s Hell-raisers.”

“We get pretty into it,” Alexander said. “I don’t think the people on the other teams are used to having fans yelling at volleyball games like we do here. It is almost like a psychological effect we have on them. But how we dress up, we are there for fun.”

Alexander, a Glasgow junior, said being a part of Hudson’s Hillraisers brings the intensity of a football or basketball game to a less-watched sport.

“We try to make the atmosphere like football or basketball games where there are signs, and everyone is painted up,” Alexander said. “We want to give them the recognition they deserve. They do awesome at home whether they win or lose.”

Free food and drinks, an autograph session, prizes, reserved seating and T-shirts are just a few of the incentives that participants can receive by being a Hillraiser.

But that’s not what keeps the group coming back each match.

“It is a little thing we can do to show our appreciation for them,” Scottsville junior Rockrohr said. “They are one of the best teams we have here, but at the same time they are probably one of the most unappreciated in terms of people just knowing who they are and how good they are.”

After every home match, members of the Lady Toppers visit the student section to give their thanks, which Scottsville sophomore Graves said makes coming to every game worth it.

“I have been to a game before when we weren’t there,” Graves said. “There was no noise — just scattered applause. I think the volleyball girls are really appreciative to have an actual fan base and not just their parents.”

With 52 current members of Hudson’s Hillraisers, Hudson himself said the student support has transformed the atmosphere for the Lady Toppers at home.

“I can’t possibly thank our students enough for their involvement,” Hudson said. “They are becoming a part of what makes playing at WKU special.”

But to Beaver Dam senior Sparks, the Hudson’s Hillraisers program is a win-win for both the volleyball team and the student body.

“Without us, there wouldn’t be an atmosphere,” Sparks said. “It would just be quiet. Plus, we enjoy causing havoc.”