Lady Toppers picked to win Conference USA for third straight year

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For the third straight season, Western Kentucky has been picked as the Conference USA preseason favorites while landing a trio of Lady Toppers on the preseason all-conference team – including preseason player of the year Alyssa Cavanaugh.

Coach Travis Hudson’s squad collected 11 of 13 first place votes in the coaches poll while Rice and Florida International received the remaining two. Rice finished second in the preseason poll while Texas San Antonio, Southern Mississippi and Marshall rounded out the top five teams.

Joining Cavanaugh on the preseason all-conference list for the third time is Lucas. Rachel Anderson was also selected to the team, marking the third time in WKU’s four years in Conference USA that three players landed on the preseason all-conference list.

Last season, Cavanaugh became the first Lady Topper to earn All-America nods from all three organizations in a single year, putting her career total up to five accolades. The Louisville native led the Red and White during 24 of 33 matches in kills, including two career-high performances of 24 kills during the 2016 campaign. One of those career-best outings came during the Conference USA tournament championship.

Also producing career numbers to help the Lady Toppers to their third-straight CUSA tournament title was Anderson, who tied the WKU program record with 31 kills in the five-set match with a .580 hitting clip. The Sturgis, Mich., native finished the year with a .414 hitting percentage, which ranked second in Conference USA and 10th in the nation.

She racked up 406 kills on the season for the fifth-most strikes in the league playing in every match in 2016.

Facilitating the second-best offense in the nation last season, Lucas was an integral piece of WKU’s success on the court. Lucas led Conference USA with 11.64 assists per set in 2016, a mark that ranked sixth across the nation as well. The Seymour, Ind., native tallied 1,280 helpers during her junior campaign and achieved 4,000 career assists during WKU's final match of the season.

Western is coming off its 15th-straight 25-win season while stretching its 30-win season streak to three-consecutive campaigns after a 30-3 record. The Lady Toppers secured their sixth straight regular-season conference championship with a 14-0 record in Conference USA and remained perfect by winning the CUSA tournament for the third straight year as well.

The tournament championship marked WKU's 10th NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 and the sixth appearance in the past seven seasons.