WKU Volleyball heads into new season with same expectations
A new season of Lady Topper Volleyball brings with it the same expectations they’ve had the past four seasons–win the Conference USA regular season and conference tournament titles. WKU has been selected as the preseason favorites to win their fifth consecutive championship, but the players aren’t too worried about the outside noise right now.
"We try not to really think about it," said senior middle hitter Rachel Anderson. "Everything can change. If we go out and we’re not playing our game, then that means nothing. We have to in to every game prepared and not thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to win this one.’"
"We’re just really gonna have to come together and fight for it," added junior outside hitter Sohpia Cerino. "I’m excited to see what it’ll be like because it’s going to be different from years past."
Different might be an understatement. The Lady Tops lose five seniors from last season, including All-Americans Jessica Lucas and Alyssa Cavanaugh. Without those players to rely on, this season will prove to be more challenging, but it also offers up the opportunity for new players to step into greater leadership roles on this year’s team. Players like Anderson, who just last week was named the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of Lucas and Cavanaugh, who both received that same honor in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
"I’m not really thinking about the end. I’m just thinking about the start and all that," she said. "I just wanna have a great season. I know I’m gonna miss it, but just do our best this year and go out with a bang."
Defensive specialist Emma Kowalkowski, who’s entering her junior year on the Hill, will also be a player to look out for.
"Being the oldest defensive player I definitely have to take on a bigger leadership role and establish that early on and lead the back row," Kowalkowski said.
So far in two-a-days, though, head coach Travis Hudson has been pleased with what he’s seen from his veteran players.
"At least early on, it looks like they’ve made the steps and done the work they needed to do in the offseason to give us a chance to be really good again," said Hudson.
Youth will be a key theme for the 2018 version of the Lady Tops. While the team might have a younger group players than in years past, they have something that wasn’t readily available in years past: versatility.
"We have players that can play basically anywhere," Anderson said. "Travis [Hudson] is trying to see, ‘Just go hit here. Go hit here. Go hit here.’ Just see where everyone molds in."
"It’s really cool to see that, if we need it, we can throw anyone in a different position," Kowalkowski added. "We don’t just have a one-man show on one side and everything like that."
Time will tell how this younger group fairs with a huge target on their back, but that countdown clock is well on its way as the Lady Tops continue to prepare for their season opener on Aug. 24 when they face Alabama in the College of Charleston Tournament.