WKU Volleyball: Lady Toppers picked to finish 3rd in Conference USA

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – With the 2019 season just over two weeks away, Conference USA has released its Preseason Coaches Poll and Team with Travis Hudson’s squad predicted to finish third this year. Senior Sophia Cerino and sophomore Lauren Matthews earned two of the 12 spots on the league’s Preseason All-Conference team.

Defending champion and preseason favorite, Rice, landed a league-high three individuals on the team. Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and Rice all joined the Red and White with a pair of Preseason All-Conference selections.

The last time WKU Volleyball was not tabbed the preseason favorites was the program’s first year in Conference USA, 2014, when the team was picked second.

Rice landed 11 first place votes in the voting while Florida Atlantic and the Tops each collected one. Behind C-USA Tournament-host Rice was Florida Atlantic sitting in second followed by WKU. North Texas, UTSA, FIU, Charlotte and Southern Miss rounded out the predicted postseason field. UAB, Marshall, UTEP, Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech concluded the preseason ranking, respectively.

Cerino returns for her senior campaign on The Hill following a breakout junior season that culminated with her earning Second Team All-Conference honors from the league. Last season from her natural position on the right side, Cerino operated at an offensive clip that exceeded .320. She led the Lady Toppers and Conference USA with 45 service aces on the year while appearing in all 117 sets across 30 matches.

After a slow start to her debut season at WKU due to injury, Matthews wrapped up 2018 with an All-Freshman team nod from C-USA. She appeared in 77 sets across 20 matches after missing nearly a month to start the year. Matthews concluded the season with 196 kills and 60 blocks, posting double-digit kills in eight outings and at least three blocks in 10.

This Saturday, Hudson and company will be hosting their third annual Volleyball 101, scrimmage and kids clinic that is free to attend. An intersquad scrimmage will get underway at 11 a.m. from the main court inside Diddle Arena before Coach Hudson’s information session and the kids clinic commence at noon.

WKU’s first outing against another team will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 21, when the Lady Toppers head to Lexington to face No. 7 Kentucky in an exhibition from Paul Dunbar High School.  The squads’ official season opener is Friday, Aug. 30, against Loyola (Chicago) in Toledo, Ohio.

With the 2019 campaign just around the corner, volleyball season tickets are available online at WKUSports.com or by calling the WKU ticket office at 1-800-5-BIGRED. Season ticket holders will receive 15 general admission tickets with the Flexible Ticket Package that can be used to attend the home games of his or her choice. This plan allows the flexibility to choose which volleyball games the buyer wants to attend and the number of tickets used for each game. Season ticket holders also gain exclusive access to pre-game chalk talks with Hudson, who enters his 25th season at the helm of WKU volleyball.

2019 Conference USA Preseason Team (12)

Tyra Galloway, Charlotte, So., MB

Yumi Garcia, Charlotte, Sr., L/DS

Massiel Matos, Florida Atlantic, Sr., OH

Sigourney Kame, Florida Atlantic, Sr., RS/OH

Ciara Debell, Marshall, R-Jr., Pin

Valerie Valerian, North Texas, Jr., OH

Nicole Lennon, Rice, Jr., OH

Grace Morgan, Rice, Sr., MB

Anota Adekunle, Rice, So., MB

Kirby Smith, UTSA, So., OH

Sophia Cerino, WKU, Sr., RS

Lauren Matthews, WKU, So., MH

2019 Conference USA Volleyball Preseason Player of the Year

Nicole Lennon, Rice

2019 Conference USA Volleyball Preseason Poll

(first-place votes)

  1. Rice (11)
  2. Florida Atlantic (1)
  3. WKU (1)
  4. North Texas
  5. UTSA
  6. FIU
  7. Charlotte
  8. Southern Miss
  9. UAB
  10. Marshall
  11. UTEP
  12. Middle Tennessee
  13. Louisiana Tech