WKU Volleyball: Lady Tops win five-setter at Southern Miss

WKU Volleyball moved to 3-0 in Conference USA matchups with a five-set victory over Southern Miss Thursday night. The Lady Toppers improved to 12-5 overall while the Golden Eagles dropped to 7-9 (1-2 C-USA) as Rachel Anderson led the way with 17 kills and a .424 hitting percentage.

“It wasn’t pretty tonight, but our kids fought hard and found a way to win this one,” head coach Travis Hudson shared. “I thought Rachel Anderson really stepped up and made some big plays for us as you would hope a preseason Player of the Year would do.”

The first set from Hattiesburg saw just one lead change and two ties: 1-1 and 21-21. After trailing for a majority of the set, WKU strung together a 7-0 run and extended it to a 9-2 stretch to close the frame despite trailing 20-15 at one point. The Lady Toppers ultimately claimed the set 25-23.

Southern Miss went on to even the match at 1-1 with a 25-16 second-set victory.

Out of the break, WKU opened a quick 13-7 advantage with a 6-0 run leading into a Southern Miss timeout. The Lady Toppers worked ahead to a 20-13 lead to force a Golden Eagle timeout. Emma Kowalkowski found the floor for aces on both sides of the stoppage before WKU closed out the 25-17 victory.

WKU was the first to double digits in set four after breaking a 9-9 tie. Southern Miss fought back to take the lead and forced the Red and White to call a timeout trailing 20-18. The Golden Eagles were able to hang on to win the set 25-22 and force a decisive fifth set. Fourth set action saw nine ties and five lead changes, both match highs.

Entering the night, WKU was a perfect 3-0 in five set matches this season and that’s how the squad would leave Hattiesburg as well. After WKU struck first in the final frame, Southern Miss responded but the Lady Toppers laid down five of the next six points to pull away. Anderson and Lauren Matthews teamed up for a pair of back-to-back block assists in the set while combining for five kills without error on eight swings. WKU claimed the victory with a 15-11 fifth-set victory.

WKU Volleyball is now 4-0 when playing five sets in a match. The Lady Toppers saw three players notch double-digit kills as Anderson (17), Kayland Jackson (11) and Matthews (10) posted big numbers. Matthews and Jackson led the Red and White with four blocks apiece while Anderson added three.

Anderson did damage from the service line as well, notching three aces without an error. She also added six digs on the night.

Kowalkowski racked up four aces to lead WKU in the category along with eight digs. Payton Frederick led the way with 22 digs for her second 20-plus dig showing of the season.

Mary Martin took over setting duties midway through the match and finished with 30 assists on the night. She added two kills and two digs to help WKU to its fifth straight victory.