Western Kentucky defeated Middle Tennessee State via sweep on Friday night, but that was only part of the story. It was part homecoming, part celebration of life and accomplishments and all love for a coach who has spent his whole career on the sidelines in Bowling Green.
Alumna Alyssa Cavanaugh, who recently announced she is battling leukemia, was in the building to witness her head coach Travis Hudson reach his 600th victory and her Lady Topper team extend its home conference win streak to 56 matches dating to the 2011 Sun Belt Conference season.
Cavanaugh was a part of 123 of those victories in her WKU career and has been encouraged by the team’s push to win #124, her battle against cancer. The team even debuted new warmup T-shirts in her honor.
We'll be rocking some new warm-ups for the rest of the season ❤️ #Win124 #IBelieveInAlyssaCavanaugh pic.twitter.com/w36vBINdue
— WKU Volleyball (@WKUVolleyball) September 21, 2018
And Middle Tennessee wore orange ribbons on their shoes to support Cavanaugh’s fight.
The Blue Raiders showed their support for @cavanaugh7 and her fight against cancer with orange leukemia ribbons on their shoes in tonight’s match versus WKU.
Continue to fight strong Alyssa! 💕#BlueRaiders #TheCUSAWay pic.twitter.com/z7BP2THZJz
— MT Volleyball (@MT_Volleyball) September 22, 2018
But the special attire and Cavanaugh’s return were just the tip of the iceberg on a milestone evening.
“It was great to see Alyssa,” Hudson said. “It’s the highlight of my night to see her and to have her here on this night, when she was a part of so many of those wins. This all has been really special.”
Hudson, who suffered a widow maker heart attack in April, was reflective after the milestone win.
“A lot goes through your mind when you realize how long you’ve been at this,” Hudson said. “When you realize where this program has come from and all the amazing kids who have come through here and I’ve watched grow up and grow into young women and my mind’s racing through all those people that have come through here over my time and I’m certainly appreciative.”
“It’s been a trying year for me and my family in a lot of ways and it’s nice to have a night where something good is going on. I’m just so blessed to have this life that I’ve lived and have been able to do it here in Bowling Green and at the school that I attended and call home. People have asked me a lot of times why I’ve chosen to stay here over the course of my career and it is nights like tonight that make me ask ‘why wouldn’t somebody?’”
With the victory, Hudson becomes just the 19th active Division I coach with 600 wins to his credit, the 58th in DI history and the first ever to do in Conference USA history.
The 25-21, 25-14, 25-19 victory improved the Lady Toppers’ record to 10-5 on the season and 1-0 in C-USA play. The win moved Hudson to 600-208 all-time at WKU, including 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, 14 conference titles and eight conference tournament crowns.
In November, VolleyMob sat down with Coach Hudson to discuss his philosophy, his program and building the school into a mid-major powerhouse and national contender.
"People have asked me a lot of times why I've chosen to stay here over the course of my career and nights like tonight make me ask 'why wouldn't somebody stay?'" – @TravisHudsonWKU
Congrats on 600 wins, Coach! #GoTops pic.twitter.com/XrBx1LuKFR
— WKU Volleyball (@WKUVolleyball) September 22, 2018
Stanford coach Kevin Hambly, whose team had the night off from play, checked in to give his well wishes.
Travis – you inspire us all! https://t.co/Ku5Xh7eTwl
— Kevin Hambly (@KHamStanfordVB) September 22, 2018
Western Kentucky def. Middle Tennesee State 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-19)
- Western Kentucky moves to 10-5, 1-0 C-USA; MTSU falls to 4-9, 0-1 C-USA
- Box Score
- WKU Recap / MTSU Recap
- Attendance: 641
- WKU hit .297 for the match, including a .317 effort in Set 3, while holding MTSU to a .177 effort.
- The Lady Toppers led the way in kills (37-33), aces (4-3) and blocks (9-5).
- Lauren Matthews and Rachel Anderson led the WKU offense with nine and eight kills respectively. Anderson hit at a team-best .500 clip and added four blocks, while Matthews hit .300 and notched a team-leading five stuffs.
- Bailey Mason led all hitters in the match with 13 kills, while hitting .321 for the Blue Raiders. Dora Peonia added seven kills and three stuffs.
- After trailing 4-2 in Set 3, WKU scored five straight, including kills from four different players to go up 7-4. The Lady Toppers held the advantage the rest of the way, leading by as many as five at 20-15 before closing out the match on a 3-0 run. Taylor Bebout dealt the final kill in the victory.