Former WKU volleyball standout Alyssa Cavanaugh dies

Story and photo Courtesy of: WKU Athletics
 WKU Volleyball legend Alyssa Cavanaugh passed away on Friday morning at Norton Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

A four-time All-American during her career on The Hill from 2014-17, Cavanaugh is one of the most decorated players in WKU program history. She was 24.

“It is with profound sadness that we deal with the loss of Alyssa Cavanaugh,” WKU Volleyball head coach Travis Hudson opened. “She left a mark on WKU that very few athletes will ever make. She was a fearless competitor who achieved things personally, and helped our program achieve things as a team, that had never before been done on The Hill. WKU Volleyball is a program that is now respected on the national stage and Alyssa and her extraordinary competitiveness are a big reason why.

“In this world, we cannot keep from dying, but we can make sure that we truly live and Alyssa did that in a big way,” Hudson continued. “She never lived in fear at any stage of her life: as a person, as an athlete and definitely not during her fight with cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cavanaugh family during this most difficult time. Alyssa will always be a symbol of what being a part of the WKU Volleyball family represents.”

“We are heartbroken to learn of Alyssa’s passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cavanaugh family,” said Director of Athletics Todd Stewart. “One of the greatest players in the rich history of the WKU volleyball program, Alyssa’s dominating and clutch performances led our program to unprecedented heights. The positive attitude she maintained throughout her battle with Leukemia coupled with her incredible courage and determination served as an inspiration to countless people, many of whom she never met. She leaves an everlasting legacy.”

“Alyssa was a fighter on and off the court,” former teammate and roommate and current WKU Volleyball assistant coach Jessica Lucas shared. “She touched so many lives, especially mine. Today my heart hurts – it hurts for her family and friends, our teammates and the WKU community. She will forever hold a special place in my heart along with so many others’. We can find comfort knowing she’s no longer in pain.”

In their four seasons at WKU together, Cavanaugh and Lucas racked up 123 wins against just 17 losses and were part of the program’s first class to appear in the NCAA Tournament every year of their career. Cavanaugh, a 5’10” outside hitter from Louisville, Ky., graduated from WKU in May 2018 with a degree in recreation administration. She was a regular on the WKU Dean’s List and C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll for her work in the classroom.

Cavanaugh’s extensive list of accolades includes Conference USA’s Michael L. Slive Female Athlete of the Year (2017-18), AVCA Third-Team All-American – the first in program history (2017), four-time AVCA All-American, four-time C-USA first team All-Conference, two-time C-USA Player of the Year (2016 & 2017), first WKU player to earn three All-American honors in a single season (2016: AVCA,,, and C-USA Freshman of the Year (2014). She ranks second in WKU Volleyball history with 1,816 career kills and third all-time with 3.78 kills per set across her career. In total, she played in 139 matches as a Hilltopper and appeared in 481 sets.

Following her graduation from WKU, Cavanaugh traveled overseas and competed in a professional tryout before being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on Sept. 5, 2018. She received a successful bone marrow transplant from her father, Eric, on Feb. 19, 2019.

Funeral arrangements for Cavanaugh are still being finalized but will be private to the family.