WKU Women’s Volleyball: Lady Tops win second straight weekend tournament

For the second-consecutive weekend, WKU Volleyball claimed its home tournament title after posting a 2-1 weekend record and owning the best set record percentage between the field’s three tied teams. Sophia Cerino earned her first-ever All-Tournament Team nod with MVP recognition while Rachel Anderson landed on the All-Tournament Team as well. WKU closed weekend action with a five-set win over NIU to improve to 8-5 on the season.

“Diddle magic,” head coach Travis Hudson said when asked about the back-to-back titles giving the team confidence. “I’m going to keep calling it Diddle magic. It’s been anything but pretty for the last couple of weeks, but somehow, someway you look up and we’ve won both tournaments against two real quality fields and we’re sitting at 8-5 after coming in 3-4 before the tournaments; so I’m really proud of this crew and we’ve got to try to build and be more consistent as we move into conference play.”

WKU opened the day with a 25-19 first set victory after the squad worked at a .471 clip but NIU responded back and took the next two sets. The Huskies claimed the second frame by a 25-17 margin before taking a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-22 third set win.

“I saw a lot of bad things out of our team to get us in a 2-1 hole, but forget about where we ended up, when you end up down 2-1 to a team that plays off emotion, like Northern Illinois does, that is a hard thing to do, to right the ship and get yourself back in it,” head coach Travis Hudson opened. “As frustrated as I am with how we ended up there, I’m equally pleased with the fact that we fought back and found a way to win the match.”

Now in a must-win situation, the Red and White responded. The fourth set saw just two ties and zero lead changes after WKU jumped ahead to a 4-0 advantage. With the lead at just two (13-11), the Lady Toppers strung together five-straight points to open up an 18-11 lead and ultimately claim a 25-18 victory to force a fifth frame.

In the deciding set, Hudson’s squad again jumped out to a 4-0 lead to force an NIU stoppage. The Huskies called for their final timeout trailing WKU 9-4 before pulling back within three at 12-9 late in the set. However, Cerino found the floor with three straight kills to close out the frame and secure WKU’s second five-set match in as many weeks.

“We really just had to grind during those last two sets,” Cerino shared. “We just had to work really hard to do our job and to be consistent.”

Cerino led the way for WKU with a career-high 19 kills against just three errors for a .485 hitting percentage. The junior added an ace and three block assists to her performance.

“I waited two years for this,” Cerino said of the MVP honor. “I’ve worked hard every day and the team has been awesome. We all push each other to get better every single day and I feel like this is possible because of them. I’m so proud of everybody and I thought everybody played well and I’m so proud that we were able to pull it out.”

Joining Cerino in double-digit kills were Rachel Anderson (14) and Katie Isenbarger (10).

After making her first start of the season at libero, Payton Frederick racked up a team-best 20 digs – a new personal best. Also notching double-digit digs were Hallie Shelton (14) and Emma Kowalkowski (13).

Isenbarger matched Cerino’s three blocks for the team lead. Taylor Bebout and Mary Martin shared setting duties with Bebout recording 35 and Martin adding 13.

Katie Shunk made her first appearance in the front row as a Lady Topper in the outing and registered five kills on 15 swings for a .267 clip.