Volleyball returns to the Hill with preseason scrimmage

Head+coach+Travis+Hudson+talks+with+the+WKU+volleyball+team+during+its+intrasquad+scrimmage+on+Aug.+14%2C+2021+at+Diddle+Arena.

Head coach Travis Hudson talks with the WKU volleyball team during its intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 14, 2021 at Diddle Arena.

Jake Moore, Sports Editor

WKU fans were able to catch a glimpse of the Hilltoppers’ volleyball program on Saturday night as the team played an intrasquad scrimmage at E. A. Diddle Arena. It was the first live action the team had seen since April.

Head coach Travis Hudson took time before the event to give a nod to the four newest additions to the Hilltopper program, Katie Howard, Kelsey Brangers, Callie Bauer and Kennadee Coyle. The quartet joins the entirety of last season’s Sweet Sixteen roster and Hudson noted that 18 total players is the largest roster his team has carried.

The first two sets were played between the starters and non-starters. The starting lineup took the first two sets by scores of 25-15 and 25-16 respectively before the third match shook up both rosters. 

The side featuring Logan Kael, Taylor Bebout, Shannon Keck and Coyle took the third and final set of the night by a score of 25-22. Hudson and his coaching staff circled the floor throughout the event, making adjustments and communicating with players.

“I will tell you this, my favorite player in today’s scrimmage was Callie Bauer, I thought [she] was fantastic today, and that is a huge step,” Hudson said after the scrimmage. “She came early. She was here in the spring, but wasn’t allowed to compete, and it was a real struggle for her because it wasn’t what we thought it would be… Callie Bauer is just scratching the surface. Some of the sets you see her make are just jaw-droppingly good.”

Hudson noted afterwards that while things may look a little rough early on, the most important thing for him right now is just keeping his team together. The Hilltoppers wrapped up their season just a handful of months ago and are staring down another season with very little downtime in between.

“It’s a delicate balance right now because we’ve got things we [have] got to get done, but because we just finished two months ago, because we have a veteran group, because I’m concerned about what their health is going to look like down the road, what they’ll mentally look like down the road, I’m trying to find times to rest these kids, both physically and mentally,” Hudson said. “We’ve been in two-a-days, we took a day off there in between, we’re gonna give them a day off tomorrow. At this early juncture, we’re just trying to bring the whole group along, instead of really polishing up.”

Hudson mentioned that a scrimmage like this serves as a good way to expose newer players to his team’s system, even if it may cause headaches for himself later on.

“The whole ‘playing against yourself’ thing is hard on me because when I break down film for every good thing that happened, there’s probably an equal bad thing on the other side,” Hudson said with a smile. “There’s a winner and loser on every point and both of them are my team, so that makes it difficult… There’s a way I’ve chosen to go about this, because we just finished up two months ago and because we’re in a unique situation when we return –  instead of open competition, ‘let’s see who rises to the top’, It’s, ‘okay here’s who we are’. This is our team. Now work your way into that.”

The Hilltoppers will face the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats at home on Aug. 19 in an exhibition match between the two programs. Kentucky handed WKU its only loss of the 2020-21 season in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament and Hudson took the time to talk about his relationship with the Wildcats’ organization, sharing his feelings on the two team’s recent successes. 

“I have such tremendous respect for their program, their coaching staff, their kids, the way they do things,” Hudson said. “Forget volleyball, I have a friendship with their staff and it allows us to come in here on Thursday and work together to make each other’s team better…We’ve seen each other a lot lately in the NCAA tournament, and I think we would both love the opportunity to see each other again because it means we’re both being successful.”

The Hilltoppers will face their in-state opponents on Thursday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. CT in E. A. Diddle Arena.

Sports Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.