WKU Volleyball to end regular season against ranked rival Owls


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

The WKU Hilltoppers celebrate after a point against the Marshall Thundering Herd on the evening of Sept. 24, 2021 during their volleyball match in Diddle Arena.

Cole McIntire, Volleyball reporter

WKU Volleyball head coach Travis Hudson on Monday previewed his team’s regular season finale against the No. 21 Rice Owls.

“I have so much respect for their program, their coaches, their kids,” Hudson said. “Over the seasons the regular season championship has often come down to these two teams. This season is no different.”

Both squads dominate Conference USA. In the majority of team stats, both programs find themselves in the top two.

WKU leads the conference with a .322 hitting percentage with Rice in second with a mark of .278. Rice holds teams to a conference-best .160 hitting percentage, while WKU is second in opponents’ hitting percentage at .165. The Owls lead in kills and assists with the Hilltoppers in second in both categories.

There is one key difference between the teams.

“We are the better blocking team on paper […] but our floor defense has just been OK,” Hudson said. “Their blocking has just been OK statistically […] but their floor defense has been far better than ours.”

Statistics support Hudson’s claim. The Hilltoppers rank first in blocks, averaging 2.54 per set. The Owls are in seventh with 1.88 blocks per set. Rice creates a conference-best 16.72 digs per set, while WKU creates a conference-worst at 12.39.

Additionally, the Hilltoppers make up for their lack of digs with the amount of pressure that they can put on opponents from the service line. They rank second in the conference in service aces at 1.96 per set, trailing UTEP at 1.97.

There is no clear favorite going into the match. Rice is ranked 21st in the country while WKU is ranked 22nd.

“I don’t think it’s going to be about who’s scheme’s better or who’s scouting report, or who has the better team […] I think it’s going to be about who plays better that night,” Hudson said.

Hudson called on the Bowling Green community to support the team Thursday night.

“We started the year with over 4,000 people in Diddle Arena [when playing Louisville] – this is that kind of match up, it’s two elite teams,” Hudson said. “[…] I feel like this community has turned into a volleyball community over the last few years and it’s time for them to show up again and make it that over the next couple of weeks.”

The two C-USA juggernauts will battle for the top spot in the conference this Thursday in Diddle Arena at 6 p.m. CT.