WKU Volleyball’s Hudson previews home invitational, recaps team’s 3-0 weekend

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Jake Moore

WKU Volleyball head coach Travis Hudson addresses the media on Monday, Sept. 6 2021.

Drew Toennies, Sports reporter

WKU Volleyball head coach Travis Hudson spoke to media on Labor Day following his team’s 3-0 sweep at the LUV Invitational. The Hilltoppers are mere days away from returning to Diddle Arena for the WKU-hosted Holiday Inn – University Plaza Invitational.

LUV Invitational

Before opening the floor to questions, Hudson made an opening statement about how pleased he was with his team’s performance against Lipscomb, Wake Forest and Kansas over the weekend.

“Well, really really excited about the weekend we had, not only the opponents we beat, but the challenge of that schedule that we had to play,” Hudson said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever done that. We played three times in less than 24 hours, with the last two [matches] being Power Five schools, but our kids got better and better as the weekend went along. It’s a veteran bunch and a tough bunch, some quality wins and now glad to be back in Diddle.”

Once the floor was opened for questions, Hudson was asked about what he has learned from the team so far this season against quality opponents.

“Well, the first thing I learned is they are human,” Hudson said. “The thing that I’ve always loved about this group is they show up ready to play every night and, I don’t think we did a very good job of that on Friday against Lipscomb. The first set against Lipscomb was one of the poorest sets that I’ve seen this group play, and so I was very happy with how we came out [on Saturday]. It’s very uncharacteristic of this group, but they responded in true fashion.’ 

“After that match, I literally just sat down in front of them and said ‘hey guys, I’ll be honest with you, tonight was pretty disappointing’. It’s just not what our program is about, and it’s kind of like the worst thing your parents can do is tell you they’re disappointed in you, so I kind of went that direction – boy, did they respond on Saturday with some of the best volleyball we’ve played.”

Life on the Road

Hudson also talked about how the team has dealt with its short offseason turnaround as the team only has two invitationals left before conference play begins.

“So far so good,” Hudson said. “This is unlike any year we’ve ever been through. I really believe it’s going to be about who can hold it together in late October. And so for instance, today all of our vets, all of our kids that logged a lot of minutes this weekend, we gave them an extra day off today and just brought in our young kids. Did some skill work, things like that, and then we’ll get back together and get ready for this weekend starting tomorrow.”

Hudson also talked about how he feels the team has performed on the road as they prepare to tip off the Holiday Inn – University Plaza Invitational in just a few days.

“To be honest, it’s been great to be on the road for two weeks,” Hudson said. “I’ve always liked being on the road early in the first couple of weeks, we typically never try to host in the first couple of weekends because I think that that’s a really important time together as a team and as an entire volleyball family…  as strange as it sounds, a four-or five-hour bus ride is really welcome early in the year because it just allows us to connect on a different level.”

Work to be Done

The overall performance over the weekend and the fundamentals that needed work was another one of Hudson’s topics of discussion.

“The biggest difference from week one to week two for us is how much better we serve the ball,” Hudson said. “If you’ve heard me talking here, we talk a lot about serving and the impact it has on the game… This weekend Logan Kael and Nadia Dieudonne and Paige Briggs all served the ball great, and iit really makes us a problem. Our goal is to hold teams under .200 hitting, percentage-wise, and for this weekend our three opponents hit .115.”

“Where do we have to get better? We need more offensively from Katie Isenbarger,” Hudson continued. “Katie is hitting low .200’s right now, and she is good to hit over .400 for us. She has not gotten out of the gate well offensively. Now having said that, she had a terrific weekend blocking for us which is a really important thing, but we need more from her offensively. It changes the look of our team when Katie plays better offensively and so that’ll be a big focus this week.”

Returning Home

The Hilltoppers are set to welcome Samford, Ole Miss, and UT Martin to Diddle Arena this weekend and Hudson discussed his expectations for the environment on the Hilltoppers’ home turf.

“Samford… they’ve struggled out of the gate, but it’s so early, you don’t have to worry about that stuff,” Hudson said. “ Samford is a perennial NCAA tournament team, a perennial Conference champion. I expect them to be right there in the mix again.”

“Friday night’s shaping up to be a big one. We play an Ole Miss team that’s undefeated, an SEC team coming to Diddle Arena. We need to be the Diddle Arena that we’ve grown accustomed to lately when we play. It’s a Friday primetime match. Our kids will be fired up to be back in here and play against a high-level quality opponent and it’s yet another opportunity against a power five school to go out and prove that we’re one of the best teams in the country.”

The Future

Hudson closed out his media availability by sharing his thoughts on the way the four freshmen on the roster, Kenadee Coyle, Callie Bauer, Kelsey Brangers and Katie Howard, have meshed with the program.

“I’m telling you, it’s a story that won’t be talked about all year because we have so many incredible veteran players, but we have a really special freshman class this year,” Hudson said. “You know, I told you we only worked with the young kids today and today was more fun for me than beating Kansas or beating Wake Forest or winning that tournament.”

“This is the part that gets my juices flowing – our young players are talented, they’re hungry, and they’re attentive,” Hudson continued. “They know it’s going to be hard to break into lineups, but these kids are sponges, they’re learning and they’re locked in, and it’s my hope that we can get them some playing time because I truly believe these kids are going to develop into kids that can help us as soon as this year.”

WKU will face off against Samford on Friday morning for the opening match of the Holiday Inn – University Plaza Invitational as the team plays in Diddle Arena for the first time this season. The match is scheduled to commence at 11 a.m. CT.

Sports reporter Drew Toennies can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @drew_toennies.