Led by senior Alyssa Cavanaugh’s school record .818 hitting percentage, No. 24 WKU Volleyball sweep Tennessee State in the 2017 Diddle Arena opener to improve to 4-0 on the young season. The Lady Toppers have now swept TSU in the last nine meetings and own a commanding 21-1 all-time record against the Tigers.
“There’s not a lot left for that kid to do,” Head coach Travis Hudson said of Cavanaugh’s historic night. “She’s certainly one of the best to ever put a jersey on. The thing that I love about her the most, I said it to my staff before the game, the thing I’m going to miss the most about Alyssa Cavanaugh is that she shows up every night. You don’t have to worry about her having an off night or not feeling like it, she shows up every night. She loves to compete, she loves the bright lights… when the bright lights are on, that kid’s always ready.”
Cavanaugh tallied a season-high 18 kills in the three-set sweep on 22 attacks for the program record efficiency rating.
When asked about her performance, Cavanaugh shared “I expect myself to come out and play my game every night, the record is just a perk. I just want to show off my team and I’m glad I could do that tonight. I couldn’t have done it without our defense and Jess [Lucas] though.”
This year’s 4-0 start marks the third-straight start of the sort to a season and the ninth time a team has started the year 4-0 in program history. Eight of those squads have been coached by Hudson.
WKU got the night started by jumping out to a quick 5-2 lead in the first frame after Cavanaugh put the first point on the board with a kill. The Red and White soon extended their lead out to a 10-4 advantage with Rachel Anderson notching her four first-set kills in that span. Three straight aces off the serve of freshman Hallie Shelton, the first of her career, upped the margin to 16-5. Maggie Singleton checked in late in the set to register her first kill of the season, giving WKU a 23-10 advantage before the Lady Toppers closed the set with a 25-12 victory.
After four first set kills, Cavanaugh caught fire for nine more in the second frame alone. The Louisville native put nine of her 10 strikes down for kills in the set. Jumping out to a 10-6 lead and forcing a TSU timeout, WKU never looked back in the second set, ultimately claiming a 25-15 victory to go ahead 2-0 in the match.
Following the long break, WKU closed things out but opening up a 17-13 third-set advantage over Tennessee State. The Lady Toppers closed shut the door on the Tigers by scoring the match’s final five points on two kills apiece from Anderson and Cavanaugh and an Emma Kowalkowski ace for the final 25-15 line.
“I think we played everyone on our roster, that’s available,” Hudson started. “We worked our whole roster in and when you do that it’s hard to have a rhythm, and at times I didn’t think we had a rhythm, but it was a valuable opportunity to work through things. Alyssa Cavanaugh went out and did what we need a senior to do in games like this, just to be a presence. I’m happy to get the win.”
Anderson finished the night with nine kills on 13 attacks for a .615 hitting clip while adding a team-high three blocks at the net. Taylor Dellinger, Sydney Engle and Jessica Lucas each chipped in five kills while hitting a collective .343. All three also contributed at least three digs and a block.
Lucas led the offense to a season-best .448 team hitting percentage on the night. The Lady Toppers dropped 47 kills on 87 swings with just eight errors across the match. Lucas closed the book with 38 assists matching her season-high for a three-set match.
Kowalkowski led the defense with 15 digs for her third double-digit outing of the season.
Across the entire match there was just one tie score which came at 1-1 before the Lady Toppers took control.
The Lady Toppers are back in action this weekend, heading north to the Louisville-hosted Cardinal Classic. WKU will take on the Cardinals Friday night before playing Illinois and Kent State on Saturday.
“They’re opening a newly renovated Cardinal Arena, beautiful facility they’ve put together for them,” Hudson said of the Louisville facilities. “It’s a sellout already and it’s going to be crazy in there. They’ve got a new coach and they’re all excited. The challenge is going to be great, they’re going to be really good and really tough to beat. We have to wake up the next morning and play Illinois out of the Big Ten, so within about 12-14 hours we’re playing two of probably the best five or six teams on our schedule. We’re going to have to play well, but I just want to see us go compete at a high level. If we do that, we’ll live with it.”
How to Follow the Lady Toppers: For complete information on WKU Volleyball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUVolleyball and head coach Travis Hudson at @TravisHudsonWKU.
WKU Athletic Communications/Media Relations