- (RV) Western Kentucky def. North Texas, 3-1 (25-15, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21)
- Western Kentucky improves to 30-3; North Texas falls to 28-3
- Bowling Green, Kentucky
- Attendance: 921
- Western Kentucky earns the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the C-USA tournament
- Box score
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – For the fourth consecutive season, (RV) Western Kentucky won the Conference USA tournament, earning their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Toppers secured their fourth straight bid to the national tournament for the first time in program history by knocking off top seed North Texas in four sets (25-15, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21). WKU also avenged their only conference loss this season. Additionally, this was UNT’s first time playing in the championship match in the C-USA tournament.
The Lady Toppers were led by Conference USA Volleyball Championship MVP Rachel Anderson (match-highs of 15 kills and 7 blocks, .462). It was Anderson’s second consecutive C-USA Tournament MVP award. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Jessica Lucas (39 assists, team-high 13 digs, 6 kills) and Alyssa Cavanaugh (10 kills). This was the third time in Cavanaugh’s career that she was named to the All-Tournament team, while Lucas has received the honor for the second time. Libero Hallie Shelton chipped in 12 digs.
North Texas (RPI: 48) will have to sweat out the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, November 26 to see if they are in. The Mean Green are also eligible to enter the NIVC, as they have received an invitation should the NCAA Tournament Committee not accept UNT. The Mean Green were led by All-Tournament honorees Valerie Valerian (12 kills, match-high 16 digs) and Karley York (match-high 40 assists, 9 digs). Libero Henrianna Ibarra also finished with a match-high 16 digs. Valerian finished with a double-double in each match in the tournament, averaging almost 4 kills per set. The .137 UNT hit against WKU was its lowest mark of the season.
Courtesy of Western Kentucky Athletics
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – For the first time in Conference USA history a league team has four-peated as the league’s postseason tournament champion after WKU Volleyball claimed today’s championship tilt in four sets over top-seeded North Texas. Using a boisterous Diddle Arena crowd to its advantage, the Lady Toppers have secured their fourth-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
“A tremendous thank you to the community, to Bowling Green,” head coach Travis Hudson shared. “The people of Bowling Green created a memory for our kids today that no amount of money or no amount of anything could’ve given them. I will be eternally grateful to the people of Bowling Green for coming out and creating an environment that will be unforgettable to these kids throughout their lives. Every time they step foot back in Diddle Arena, they’re going to have a memory that’ll stay with them. There’s nothing that can replace that. I’m tremendously grateful to the people of Bowling Green community and Hilltopper Nation.”
Rachel Anderson brought home her second-straight Conference USA Volleyball Championship MVP honor while Jessica Lucas and Alyssa Cavanaugh also earned nods to the All-Tournament Team. Cavanaugh has landed on the team three times in her career and Lucas twice.
With three wins on the weekend, Hudson and company have posted their fourth-straight 30-win campaign now owning a 30-3 mark on the season. The Red and White finished with the most wins at home since 2012 as well, going 15-0 inside Diddle Arena. The unblemished mark is the fifth time in WKU Volleyball history that a team has finished undefeated at home for an entire season. Additionally, WKU has now won the last two conference tournaments it has hosted.
While North Texas won’t get the automatic bid from the league, the squad is on the bubble as an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament and also has the potential to play in the NIVC. The Mean Green is now 28-3 on the year after their first C-USA Championship match appearance since joining the league.
“What a year North Texas has had. I really hope they get the benefit of the doubt in terms of at large selections to the NCAA Tournament,” Hudson said of Coach Andrew Palileo’s North Texas squad. “They are a quality team and they’re tremendously well coached. They walked into a tough environment today to play in. They’ve had an unbelievable year and I have so much respect for them and I think they’re worthy of being an NCAA Tournament team and hope they get the opportunity.”
WKU got off to a hot start on the day, opening up a 6-0 lead before the Mean Green finally got on the board. North Texas called its final timeout of the set trailing 13-7. Out of the break, the WKU lead grew to seven thanks to the combined block from Amara Listenbee and Sydney Engle to make it 16-9. The Red and White lead grew to eight at 22-14 and Darby Music followed with an ace to extend the margin to nine. Taylor Dellinger gave WKU set point with a kill and Lucas closed things up by winning a joust at the net for the 25-15 Lady Topper win. The first set score was identical to the opening frame score from Denton, Texas, during the regular season. WKU worked at a .314 clip, paced by six Anderson kills. North Texas registered a .034 hitting percentage in the frame with just eight kills.
The Lady Toppers kept their foot on the gas to start set two, opening a 3-0 lead before the Mean Green got on the board. WKU worked ahead to an 8-2 advantage to force another early timeout. Keeping things moving, the Red and White pushed out to a double-digit 16-6 lead to force North Texas’ second stoppage. With the margin remaining in double digits or right around it, the Lady Toppers went ahead 21-11 in set two. North Texas pushed back within six at 23-17 but WKU ultimately prevailed with the 25-17 set two win. The Lady Toppers worked at a .441 hitting clip in the frame with 16 kills.
Following the break, WKU Volleyball struck first again, taking a quick 2-0 lead before North Texas responded and tied things up. The Lady Toppers pushed ahead to an 8-3 lead but the Mean Green fought back to tie things up. After North Texas took its first lead of the match, WKU opted for a timeout trailing 15-11 in set three. Coming out of its second stoppage down 18-11, the Lady Toppers ended the North Texas run to start their comeback. Late in the set, WKU put together a 4-0 run to cut the deficit to two points as the Mean Green called their second timeout at 21-19. North Texas pulled away late to avoid the sweep by taking set three 25-20.
Opening up the first three-point lead for either side in set four, WKU forced North Texas to use its first stoppage as the Mean Green trailed 12-8. UNT tallied three-straight points to pull within one before a service error hindered the comeback. WKU pushed back and took a four-point lead before North Texas responded again with a pair of points to remain within two. In their own retaliation, the Lady Toppers grew the margin back to four to force another North Texas timeout at 19-15. The first to 20, WKU was ahead by five before North Texas cut the lead to just one, forcing a WKU stoppage. Responding out of the break, Lucas won a joust at the net for a 21-19 lead. WKU scored again on a North Texas attack error before the Mean Green recorded their final two points of the match on back-to-back kills. Anderson posted kills for the 23-21 and 24-21 advantage before combining with Dellinger on a block for the championship point.
Dellinger owned four of her career-high seven blocks in the fourth set alone. As a team, WKU racked up five combined stops in the frame with five different Lady Toppers getting into the action. The Red and White finished with 15 blocks on the four-set match. Fifteen blocks marks the seventh time this season Hudson’s unit has notched double-digit stuff and 15 marks the second-highest total for the Red and White on the season.
Outblocking the Mean Green 15-6 on the day proved to be one of the biggest differences in the match. All other stat categories saw both sides but up even numbers. While WKU finished with 52 kills against UNT’s 50, the Mean Green out-dug the hosts 59-56.
“We’re defending at the highest level we have all year,” Hudson said of his squad. “Our floor defense was great. Our two freshmen, Hallie [Shelton] and Darby [Music] played phenomenal in left back. Emma Kowalkowski‘s been solid ever since we moved her to middle back. It took a while to find ourselves from a defensive standpoint. The way we blocked today, 15 blocks, four aces, five errors. If you can remember, our first four or five matches this year, we were throwing three aces and 14 errors on the board… We’ve come a long way in terms of the things we’re doing. Hopefully we have a great week and we put the best version of us out there when we get to the NCAA Tournament.”
In addition to her offensive facilitator role, Lucas also racked up a team-high 13 digs for her 10th double-double of the season and second in as many days. Lucas finished with 39 assists, six kills and a service ace in the championship.
Connecting well with the offense, Lucas and Anderson teamed up the most as Anderson finished with a match-high 15 kills and .462 hitting percentage. She tied with Dellinger for the team lead in blocks at seven each.
Also notching double-digit kills was the Conference USA Player of the Year, Cavanaugh who finished with 10. Dellinger finished with nine while Engle chipped in seven. Engle added eight digs, seven assists and six blocks as well.
Amara Listenbee matched Engle with six blocks. Kayland Jackson finished with a pair of stops as well to round out the Lady Topper block.
WKU finished with a .272 hitting clip on the day while limiting the explosive North Texas unit to a .137 rate.
Selection Show party details will be announced later this week as the Lady Toppers will host a watch party for the community. WKU’s seniors are the first Lady Toppers in program history to advance to the NCAA Tournament all four years of their careers on The Hill. The 2017 automatic bid marks the programs ninth of the sort and 11th overall appearance in The Dance – all coming under Hudson.
Courtesy of North Texas Athletics
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – North Texas’ hopes of a Conference USA tournament title were dashed by Western Kentucky in a 3-1 (17-25, 17-25, 25-20, 21-25) loss to the Hilltoppers in Sunday’s conference championship. WKU out-blocked the Mean Green, 15-6, and held North Texas to a .137 attack percentage.
“Western came out ready to play and you could tell they’ve been in this moment before,” North Texas head coach Andrew Palileo said.
Freshman outside hitter Valerie Valerian tied for the team lead with 12 kills, along with Holly Milam, and 16 digs, along with Henrianna Ibarra. Senior right-side Alexis Wright joined Valerian and Milam in double-digits with 10 kills and tallied two blocks.
“Val killed it offensively and defensively this weekend,” Palileo said. “The future is looking bright for us.”
The Hilltoppers got out to a 6-0 lead in the first set behind a trio of kills by tournament MVP, Rachel Anderson. The Mean Green would pull within four at 11-7, but WKU proved to be too much for North Texas, closing out the set on a 7-2 run.
“It’s draining when you have to claw back like that, and then when you catch them, you’re a little dead,” Palileo said.
The second set marked another hot start for the Hilltoppers, who ran out to an 8-2 advantage behind a pair of kills and a block by Taylor Dellinger. After Valerian posted two kills, WKU used another 8-2 run to extend its lead to 17-6. Valerian recorded three more kills in the set to get the deficit back below double-digits at 21-12, but back-to-back Milam attack errors set up and clinched set point.
“For anyone, it makes you look chaotic, but you have to learn to stay in the moment and stay calm,” Teakell said on playing from behind in the first two sets.
Fears of a sweep began to set in as the Hilltoppers jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the third set, but North Texas scored five straight points to tie the game. Freshman Barbara Teakell entered the match and posted a pair of kills in a 4-0 run that gave the Mean Green their first lead of the match. A Teakell block ignited another streak of six points, highlighted by a pair of Milam aces to extend the lead to 18-11. WKU stormed back to within two points, but North Texas scored three straight points to avoid a sweep.
“I just wanted to come in and give it all for my teammates,” Teakell said.
Anderson proved her worth as MVP with four kills and a block to fuel the Hilltoppers to a 12-8 lead in the final set, forcing the Mean Green to call a timeout. Teakell answered with back-to-back-to-back kills to slash the WKU lead to one. North Texas then allowed five of the Hilltoppers’ next eight points on errors. A block and a kill by Wright led a 4-0 Mean Green run to once again pull within one at 20-19. Anderson accounted for the final three points of the match on a pair of kills and a block to clinch WKU’s fourth-straight tournament title.
“We talked about playing point by point and not worrying about the end result or winning the set,” Teakell said. “We were focusing on the end results instead of what to do to get to the end result.”
North Texas will learn if it receives an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in the Selection Show on Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. CT .
• Valerian had a double-double in each match of the tournament, averaging 3.58 kills per set and 4.75 digs per set.
• The 2017 team now ranks sixth in school history in single-season block assists (378), seventh in assists (1,562), ninth in single-season kills (1,681) and 10th in total blocks (250).
• Milam passed Anne Pope for the sixth-most career block assists (246) in program history.
• Sunday’s .137 team hitting percentage is the lowest in a match this season.
• York passed Heather Maddox for the fifth-most assists in a single season in school history (1,341).