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Lady Tops to host Wright State, Austin Peay in weekend exhibitions

Following a win over Murray State in its preseason opener, Western Kentucky's women's soccer team will conclude its three-match exhibition set with two more home matches this weekend, taking on Wright State (Friday at 6 p.m.) and Austin Peay (Sunday at 6 p.m.) at the WKU Soccer Complex.

This weekend’s matches will mark the first events broadcast via WKU Sports’ expanded partnership with the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network. Both matches will be streamed live on the HSSN Facebook page and will be available for free to all fans. Brett Williams and Sydney Doughty will have the call against the Raiders and Lady Govs.

In its first live match action of the season on Wednesday, WKU knocked off preseason OVC favorite Murray State in a 2-0 victory, with goals from Ambere Barnett and Ashley Leonard securing the win. Five of WKU’s newcomers saw their first action in the match, and Anne-Marie Ulliac and Ashley Kobylinski each played a half in goal, combining for eight saves to share the shutout.

Among WKU’s newcomers in the field, Sydney Ernst, Logan Barber, Taylor Stanley and Katie Erwin all played at least 30 minutes against the Racers, with Stanley nearly notching a goal in her WKU debut. Along WKU’s back line, Christina Bragado, Kaylyn Bryant and Avery Jacobsen each played the full 90 minutes while contributing to the shutout.

Wright State finished the 2018 season with a 6-9-2 record overall, but a 5-3-1 mark in Horizon League play before falling against Detroit Mercy in its conference tournament opener. The Raiders lost their top two leading scorers in Aaliyah Patten and Mattie Cutts from a season ago, but bring back third-leading scorer Erin Graefen, who scored five points despite starting only three matches. 

In goal, Maddie Jewell returns for Wright State after starting all 17 matches in 2018, making 65 saves while allowing 28 goals in 1,567 minutes of action for a goals against average of 1.61.

Austin Peay dropped its exhibition opener last Monday afternoon in a 1-0 setback against Georgia State. The Lady Govs were 8-8-1 last season and return leading scorer Claire Larose (seven goals in 2018), but managed only 22 goals across 17 matches.

Both goalkeepers from last season return for the Lady Govs, as Mary Parker Powell (1,383 minutes) and Peyton Powell (172 minutes) saw extensive playing time. The duo combined for 67 saves while allowing 22 goals, pairing for a 1.27 goals against average.

Following this weekend’s matches, WKU will kick off the regular season next Thursday evening at 7 p.m. as Belmont makes the short trip to the WKU Soccer Complex. WKU has never dropped a match against the Bruins in a series that dates back to 2008, holding a 4-0-1 record that includes a 3-0 shutout win in the last regular season meeting on Sept. 17, 2016.

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WKU track and field splitting for weekend meets in California, Georgia

After splitting last weekend to travel to Tennessee and Austin Peay, Western Kentucky's track & field teams will divide again as the split squad travels to the Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance, Calif., and the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta.

Several Hilltoppers will travel to the California, while the rest of the track and field squad will head to Georgia.

“The Mt. SAC Relays provides quality competition. You get a lot of elite athletes,” WKU coach Erik Jenkins said in a news release. “We need that type of competition to be prepared. Same thing going to Georgia Tech, there will be very good competition at Georgia Tech. Last year, our Lady Toppers did a very good job down there.”

On Friday, the Mt. SAC Relays start with the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 10,000-meter run. The majority of the collegiate action takes place on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. CT with the preliminary race of the 110-meter hurdles. WKU will compete in events throughout the day on a rolling schedule.

At the Georgia Tech Invitational, both track and field events will kick off the first day. The hammer throw is the first field event beginning at 10 a.m. CT on Friday while the women’s 100-meter hurdles is the first race starting at 5 p.m. CT. Saturday starts with women’s high jump at 10 a.m. CT with running events starting at noon.

In its last time out, WKU went to two separate meets in Tennessee. A few Hilltoppers traveled to the Tennessee Relays in Knoxville, Tenn., while the Lady Topper team went to the APSU Governors’ Invite in Clarksville, Tenn. WKU brought home four event titles and 12 top-five finishes.


WKU set to compete in Pepsi Florida Relays

Western Kentucky's track and field team is competing in Gainesville, Fla., for the Pepsi Florida Relays this weekend at the James G. Pressly Stadium and Percy Beard Track.

The meet is considered to be one of the top-five collegiate track and field meets in the country and will be run Thursday through Saturday. WKU is sending 22 Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers to compete in 15 total events over the course of the three days.

A few Hilltoppers will compete in the 200-meter dash on the first day of competition. Those races will be run at 1:40 p.m. CT on Thursday. On Friday, collegiate field events start at 10:30 a.m. CT, while collegiate running events will begin at 11:15 a.m. CT. On Saturday, the final day of the meet, field events are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. CT with men’s discus and collegiate running will start at 11 a.m. CT. 

The Florida Relays have been run nearly every year since 1939 excluding 1942-46 due to World War II and 2006 when Percy Beard Track was under construction. The Relays attract over 3,000 high school, collegiate and international competitors each year as a premier track and field event.

“We are extremely blessed to have the opportunity to go down and compete at the Florida Relays,” WKU coach Erik Jenkins said in a news release. “Everybody will be represented at that meet. We want to be prepared for championship season. You want to compete against the best because at some point at the end of the season, you want to be one of the best. We want to put ourselves in a position where we’ve seen it and done it.” 

In WKU's last time competing, one of the men’s 4x100-meter relay teams took home first place after running a 40.79-second time at the Vanderbilt Black and Gold Invitational. WKU also earned 16 top-10 finishes including each of the two squads in the men’s 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays.

SEC Network + (via Watch ESPN) will broadcast live coverage during parts of Friday's and Saturday's collegiate/post-collegiate competition.

Following the Florida Relays, WKU is set to host its annual Hilltopper Relays on April 5-6. Senior day and the Bowling Green’s Fastest Kid competition are both scheduled for Saturday afternoon.


WKU to open softball season Friday at Sand Dollar Classic

Western Kentucky's softball team is set to open the 2019 season this weekend in Gulf Shores, Ala., at the Sand Dollar Classic.

Five games are on the slate for the Hilltoppers as the squad will play doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday before taking the field for the final time on Sunday. Losing a total of one starter and two letterwinners from its 2018 squad, WKU returns experience at nearly every position.

Weekend action will open Friday morning with a game against Missouri State, a squad that WKU has faced twice prior. The Hilltoppers are 1-1 all-time against the Bears. MSU went 32-20 during the 2018 season.

WKU’s Friday night matchup will be against No. 17 Auburn, which leads the all-time series with the Tops 2-0. The Tigers posted a 41-17 record a season ago.

Since 2000, WKU's softball team has played 11 different SEC squads. The Hilltoppers have gone 18-43 up against SEC opposition. Under coach Amy Tudor, the 2014-2018 squads have gone head-to-head with seven of the SEC programs, putting together a record of 5-10. In 2014 the Hilltoppers took down No. 2 Tennessee on the Volunteers’ home turf in Tudor’s second game coaching for WKU against an SEC school. Over the 2017 opening weekend, WKU headed to Starkville, Miss., and took down the host Bulldogs in a 1-0 decision. WKU dropped decisions to No. 8 LSU and No. 18 Kentucky in 2018.

Saturday morning, the Hilltoppers will play back-to-back contests against Florida A&M followed by Tennessee State. WKU and FAMU have never met while WKU owns a 24-2 advantage all-time over TSU. Florida A&M is coming off a 23-29 season while Tennessee State went 4-48 last season, including two losses to WKU.

Weekend action will conclude Sunday against former Sun Belt Conference foe, South Alabama. WKU trails the Jaguars 15-11 all-time. USA went 29-27 a season ago.

WKU has claimed its season-opener in each of the last six seasons. Tudor is 14-0 in her career in season-opening contests entering her 15th season as at the helm of a program.

The Hilltoppers feature five players in their final seasons at WKU including Cassidy Blackford, Rebekah Engelhardt, Kelsey McGuffin, Shannon Plese and Jordan Vorbrink. Blackford redshirted her first year at WKU but will exit at the same time as her fellow four-year teammates, Engelhardt and McGuffin. Vorbrink enters her second season with the Hilltoppers after playing her first two years at Louisville. Plese is a redshirt-senior addition that has made stops at Chattanooga State CC, South Carolina and Tennessee before spending her final season with the Tops.


WKU baseball announces promotions for 2019 season

Western Kentucky has announced its slate of promotions for the 28 home baseball games this season at Nick Denes Field, as well as the contest vs. Kentucky at Bowling Green Ballpark on April 23.

When the Hilltoppers take on the Norse to begin the year, the first 250 fans through the gates will receive a WKU team schedule magnet.

In all, there are six giveaway dates throughout the season:

Feb. 15 vs. Northern Kentucky: Schedule magnets for first 250 fans

March 9 vs. Memphis: Traditional red towels for first 100 fans

March 30 vs. Charlotte: American flag-themed t-shirt for first 100 fans

April 20 vs. Florida Atlantic: Jersey towels for first 100 fans

April 23 vs. Kentucky (at BG Ballpark): Red t-shirt for first 250 students

May 17 vs. Old Dominion: 100th Season t-shirt for first 100 fans

For the three midweek games during the season at Nick Denes Field, fans can enjoy special pricing on traditional ballpark fare. Game tickets, popcorn and hot dogs will each be $2, and a large soft drink with a souvenir cup will be $5.

For Sunday afternoon games, children aged 12 and under receive free admission, and a kid's lunch special that includes a hot dog, bag of chips and can of soda will be $5. After the game, children are invited to run the bases with Big Red.

For Military Appreciation Weekend against Charlotte on March 29-31, all military personnel receive free admission with valid identification.

Flexible season ticket packages are now available for purchase, including 30 tickets for $50 that can be used at any of the 29 home games throughout the 2019 campaign.


Lady Tops head for Texas for pair of tennis matches

Western Kentucky's women's tennis team heads to the Lone Star State this weekend to compete in two away matches. The Lady Toppers will play at UT Arlington on Friday followed by a midday matchup at Conference USA opponent North Texas on Saturday.

UT Arlington (4-0) is undefeated this season, having played all four of its matches at home thus far. The Mavericks defeated C-USA member UTEP 6-1 on Feb. 1. This will be the first-ever competition between WKU and UT Arlington. The Mavericks' Momoka Horiguchi is currently No. 113 on the ITA singles rankings.

North Texas (3-3, 1-0 C-USA) will be WKU’s first conference opponent of the season. The Mean Green is 3-0 on its home court this season. The Lady Toppers have only met North Texas one other time. The two squads played at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on April 26, 2003 where the Lady Toppers fell to the Mean Green 4-0 in the opening round.

In the most recent ITA Rankings, North Texas’ doubles pair Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze were named No. 19 in doubles. Kutubidze is also No. 69 on the singles rankings.

WKU (0-3) will play UT Arlington at 2 p.m. CT on Friday at the UTA Tennis Center. The Lady Toppers match against North Texas will begin at noon CT on Saturday. The C-USA matchup will take place in Plano, Texas, at the Lifetime Fitness Center.


WKU set to compete in Music City Challenge

Western Kentucky's track and field team will make its second trip of the indoor season to Nashville for the Vanderbilt-hosted Music City Challenge on Friday and Saturday. Action from the Commodores’ Multipurpose Facility will feature a total of 25 teams.

The Music City Challenge will kick off on Friday with field events at 4 p.m. CT, while running competition will begin at 7 p.m. from the Commodores' Multipurpose Facility. On Saturday, running events will resume at 10 a.m. with field events soon after at 10:30 a.m. Results will be available here. 

In addition to WKU and Vanderbilt, Memphis, Eastern Kentucky, Southern Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Missouri State, Ole Miss, Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois State, North Dakota State, Indiana State, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee, Central Florida, SMU, Maryland, Towson, Lipscomb, Xavier, Georgia Tech, Alabama and Tulane will all be represented at the two-day outing.

Nearly the entire squad will make the trip to Nashville with 16 Lady Toppers and 20 Hilltoppers hitting the road. WKU is slated to enter competitors in 24 events.

Since last weekend’s meet at Kentucky, senior Oliver Alexandre has collected his second Conference USA Male Track Athlete of the Week honor. The Miami native registered a personal-best 47.30 seconds in the 400-meter dash and helped WKU’s 4x400-meter relay to the fastest time recorded by a C-USA team since the 2013-14 season. The unit combined for a 3:08.07.

Collectively, WKU posted 15 top-10 finishes at last weekend’s Rod McCravy Memorial Invite led by Myesha Nott’s third triple jump title of the season.


WKU announces 2018-19 track and field schedule

Western Kentucky track and field coach Erik Jenkins has announced the program's upcoming 2018-19 schedule, which features eight meets across the indoor and outdoor seasons in either Kentucky or Tennessee. WKU will again host the Hilltopper Relays on April 5-6.

Indoor action kicks off Saturday at the Vanderbilt Indoor Opener and will resume following the holiday season on Jan. 12 with the WKU squads heading to West Lafayette, Ind., for the Purdue-hosted Gene Edmonds Open. The following weekend, the Hilltoppers will be at a two-day outing when the squad heads to Music City for the Vanderbilt Invitational (Jan. 18-19). WKU will return to Indiana to close January competition at the Indiana University Relays in Bloomington from Jan. 25-26.

Jenkins’ squad will kick off February action at the Kentucky-hosted Rod McCravy Memorial outing on Feb. 1-2 in Lexington. Regular-season action will conclude back in Nashville with the two-day Vanderbilt Music City Challenge on Feb. 8-9.

The Conference USA Championships will again take place in Birmingham, Ala., as WKU looks to continue its success from Feb. 16-17. Between postseason trips to Birmingham, the Hilltoppers have added the Boston University Last Chance Invite to its slate. Indoor action will conclude March 8-9 for student-athletes who qualify for the NCAA Championships that will also take place in Birmingham, Ala.

Outdoor competition will commence March 22-23 with another trip to Nashville for the Vanderbilt Black and Gold Invitational. The following weekend (March 29-31), WKU will head to Florida for the Pepsi Florida Relays in Gainesville, Fla. 

WKU will invite competitors to Bowling Green for the two-day WKU Hilltopper Relays from April 5-6. The following weekend, WKU will head to the Austin Peay Invitational in Clarksville, Tenn., before splitting the squad and heading to both Georgia Tech and the Mt. SAC Relays from April 19-20. The following weekend, the squads will split once again, and head to the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and the Lenny Lyles/Clark Wood Invitational in Louisville. The regular season will conclude May 3-4 at the Kentucky Relays. 

The Conference USA Outdoor Championships from Charlotte, N.C., will take place from May 9-12 on the Charlotte campus. Two weeks later, WKU will send representatives to the NCAA East Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla., from May 23-25. The NCAA Championships will wrap up the 2019 season with championship action taking place in Austin, Texas, from June 5-8 at the Mike A. Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas.


Lady Tops set to open C-USA play at Southern Miss

Western Kentucky's women's soccer team is set to kick off Conference USA play on Sunday afternoon as the Lady Toppers travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., to face Southern Miss.

The Lady Toppers (2-3-2) are looking to bounce back after dropping a 2-0 decision to Vanderbilt in the first of five consecutive matches on the road. WKU freshman goalkeeper Bailee Witt made a career-high eight saves in the game.

Freshman midfielder Ambere Barnett and freshman forward Olivia Stanley lead the Lady Toppers on the attack, scoring three goals each at the halfway point of the regular season. Junior forward Chandler Backes has also put pressure on opposing goalkeepers, attempting 18 shots and eight shots on goal in seven matches played. Redshirt senior midfielder Sarah Gorham has played a team-high 648 minutes this season, assisting on two goals and scoring once.

As a team, WKU has combined to score 15 goals in 2018 and has attempted an average of 17 shots per game. On defense, the Lady Toppers have allowed 10 goals on 75 shots, with only 36 shots on target.

Witt has held WKU's opponents to either zero or one goal in five of the seven matches played this season. The Plainfield, Ill., native has 26 saves and sports a 1.40 goals against average in just under 645 minutes of action between the posts.

Southern Miss (6-1) enters Sunday's match on a six-match winning streak, with their last defeat coming nearly one month ago against Mississippi State, in which the Golden Eagles were shut out, 3-0. In their most recent match on Sept. 13, Southern Miss secured a 6-1 victory on the road at Jackson State, as freshman midfielder Olivia Durham led the Golden Eagles with two goals on the day, with four other Golden Eagles tallying one goal apiece. Sophomore midfielder Miah Zuazua leads the Golden Eagles with seven goals and 18 points on the season.

In goal, sophomore Kendall Mindnich has played well over 340 minutes for Southern Miss, collecting 13 saves across five matches played. The Golden Eagles have registered five shutout victories this season.

A win would continue WKU's unbeaten run against Southern Miss, as the Lady Toppers have not lost to the Golden Eagles since WKU joined Conference USA in 2014. Most recently, WKU traveled to Hattiesburg for a match last season, playing to a 0-0 draw after 110 minutes. Since joining the conference, WKU owns a 3-1 record in C-USA openers.

Following Sunday's match, the Lady Toppers will be off until Sept. 23, when the team travels to Ruston, La., to take on the Lady Techsters of Louisiana Tech. WKU will then play two more matches on the road before returning to the WKU Soccer Complex on Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. as the Lady Toppers host FIU in their C-USA home opener.


Lady Tops to open season at USA Intercollegiate

Western Kentucky's women's golf team begins its season this weekend at South Alabama’s USA Intercollegiate in Mobile, Ala.

WKU says goodbye this year to graduated seniors Georgina Blackman and Katie Story, who were standouts for the program for four and three years, respectively.

“They’re going to be sorely missed, but it gives the younger ones an opportunity to step up and get some playing time, for sure,” WKU coach Adam Gary said in a news release. “Hard work pays off. They just have to dig in. The opportunity is there, so you just have to prepare for it so that when that opportunity comes, you’re ready.”

WKU will be one of 16 teams competing this weekend at the par-72, 6,002-yard RTJ Magnolia Grove-Crossings Course in Mobile, Ala.

Teams will play one round each day Saturday through Monday, with the Lady Toppers first teeing off at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Juniors Mary Joiner, Bailey Tyree and Abigail Smee, along with sophomore Megan Clarke and freshman Lizzie Loy, will represent WKU in Mobile. Sophomore Caroline Cavin will compete as an individual.

Joiner continues to build on one of the best careers in program history – with two seasons to go. Her 73.9 stroke average in 2017-18 was the best in team history, and her four career individual titles are already a program record.

Gary said Joiner has picked up right where she left off in qualifying. The Franklin native finished second last year at the USA Intercollegiate.

“Normally I don’t play that well in qualifying, but this year I’ve scored a lot better,” Joiner said in a news release. “That gives me confidence moving forward, but at the end of the day what matters is how you do in tournaments. I just have to keep a good mindset and try to limit mistakes. That’s what I really worked on all summer – play easier, more boring golf instead of trying to scramble for a bogey or par.”

WKU will miss the steady play of Blackman and Story. Blackman was the first four-year all-league player in program history, and she won the England women’s amateur championship in July.

Smee and Tyree combined for three top-10s and six top-25s last season, while Clarke had four top-25s on her own, including an 11th-place finish in the Conference USA Championship.

“It’s definitely weird this year having no seniors, so now me, Bailey and Mary as juniors are the older ones,” Smee said in a news release. “It’s just being there for everyone. We’re trying to take that senior role if anyone needs help, and just all looking out for each other.”


WKU cross country teams set for Commodore Classic

Western Kentucky's cross country team will be on the road this weekend as the men's and women's squads head to Music City for the Commodore Classic hosted by Vanderbilt in Nashville.

The event will begin on Saturday at 9 a.m. with the men’s 8K before the women’s 5K at 10 a.m.

The 15th annual Commodore Classic will take place at Vaughn’s Gap, in Nashville’s Percy Warner Park. The course runs through more than 10 miles of woodlands.

Traveling for the Hilltoppers for the third-straight weekend will be Matthew Wininger, Emerson Wells, Dedrick Troxell, Clint Sherman and Luke Hoover for the men. On the women's side, Brianna Wolken, Heather Whitlow, Abby Luce, Morgan Kannapel and Aairiona Hayden-Ransom will make the trip.

Whitlow led the WKU women for the second consecutive race last time out, finishing fourth overall on the women’s side with a mark of 21 minutes, 58.2 seconds. For the men, the squad was again led by Wininger (22:28.4) and Wells who followed directly behind (22.38.6).

This marks the third of four consecutive weekends that the WKU distance squads will head to Tennessee. In the next trip, WKU will head over to Clarksville for the Austin Peay Cross Country Festival on Sept. 23.


WKU takes aim at Governors Invitational

Both the Western Kentucky men's and women's track and field squads will be traveling to Austin Peay on Friday to compete in the Governors Invitational.

The Invitational has been paired down to just one day of competition on Friday due to the impending weather expected in Clarksville, Tenn., on Saturday. 

Action will begin on Friday morning with shot put, discus, triple jump, long jump and pole vault all slated to begin at 10 a.m. The high jump competition will begin promptly after the long jump has ended. Javelin will be the final field event of the day beginning at 3 p.m.

Running events will start at 2 p.m. and will be on a rolling schedule for the remainder of the afternoon. The meet is expected to conclude at approximately 6:30 p.m.

“We’ll go down and we’ll try to do our best,” WKU coach Erik Jenkins said in a news release. “No matter what, it’s a track. We’re going to go run and get the job done.”

Spectators can enter through the gates on the west side of Fortera Stadium just off Drane Street.

WKU’s most recent team competition was last week when the school hosted 19 teams for the annual Hilltopper Relays. The Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers finished the meet with 11-first place finishes and several PRs.


Hilltoppers set to host Herd for 3-game series

Coming off four consecutive games against ranked opponents, Western Kentucky's baseball team will host Marshall for a Friday-to-Sunday three-game set at Nick Denes Field, with all three contests to be streamed on

The Thundering Herd leads the all-time series against WKU, 12-9, including an 8-1 mark in Conference USA play over the past three years. Going into the 2015 season, the Hilltoppers had gone 8-4 against Marshall in 12 games played from 1992-99.

Marshall has swept WKU in back-to-back series; in Bowling Green in 2016 and in West Virginia in 2017. Last year's series was supposed to be played at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va., but with questionable weather patterns it was moved to Kennedy Center Field at a YMCA recreation location in Huntington, W.Va.

The first two games were one-run decisions, with the Hilltoppers falling by scores of 3-2 and 10-9. The Thundering Herd then held the Hilltoppers to three hits in an 8-0 win in the finale.

Although the Thundering Herd was swept in a home-and-home by Virginia Tech in midweek games, they swept C-USA foe Middle Tennessee on the road the weekend prior. For the season, Marshall stands at 14-15, including a 4-8 record in league play.

Marshall is expected to go with the same starting rotation that swept the Blue Raiders last weekend in righty Brad O'Connor, lefty Joshua Shapiro and righty Zac McNeel. That trio earned all three wins in the series, allowing only four earned runs in 20 2/3 innings.

At the plate, right fielder Shane Hanon leads the club with a .358/.456/.462 slash line, and three of his five extra-base hits on the season have come in the past week. The returning backstop, Reynaldo Pastrana, is a power threat with a team-high .525 slugging percentage. His 15 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs lead the Thundering Herd.

Defensively, the Thundering Herd pitchers and catchers have slowed down opponents' run games, allowing only 10 stolen bases on 17 attempts. However, Marshall ranks 11th in C-USA with a .960 fielding percentage, with 42 errors in 29 games.

The Hilltoppers' probable starters in the game notes reflects previous series. WKU's weekend rotation remains TBA at this time.


Tops' Morris set to run in Commonwealth Games

Western Kentucky sprinter Julius Morris is set to compete in the 200-meter dash at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) on Monday.

The Hilltopper is one of 73 competitors in the event and will participate in the fourth heat, beginning at 10:29 p.m. 

GC2018 will welcome more than 6,600 athletes and team officials from 71 Commonwealth nations and territories to the Gold Coast and event cities Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville. As the largest sporting event to be staged in Australia this decade, GC2018 will feature the largest integrated sports program in Commonwealth Games history, comprising 18 sports and seven para-sports.

Montserrat-native Morris is a four-year letterwinner at WKU. He has earned 14 all-conference honors and been a conference champion seven times across five different events in his career as a Hilltopper. In addition to this Commonwealth Games, he has competed on the world stage several times including at the most recent Indoor and Outdoor World Championships and the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Morris tied the indoor 200-meter dash program record this past indoor season and owns the third fastest 60-meter indoor time. He also holds the second fastest 100- and 200-meter outdoor times in program history. Morris was also a member of the 4x100-meter relay team holding the first, second and fourth fastest times in program history.

The senior is a two-time NCAA All-American including a first-team All-American in the 4x100-meter relay and second-team All-American in the 200-meter. 

If Morris were to advance from the first round, he would run again early Wednesday morning in the semifinals. His best collegiate time for the 200-meter dash is 20.28 seconds.


Tops set for road series at No. 13 Southern Miss

After a five-day break in the schedule, Western Kentucky's baseball team resumes play against the first-place team in Conference USA: No. 13 Southern Miss.

The Hilltoppers and Golden Eagles will play a Friday-to-Sunday series at Pete Taylor Park, with all three contests to be streamed on

While the Hilltoppers have not played since a 9-5 victory vs. UTSA on Saturday, Southern Miss has played three games in the past five days.

The Golden Eagles (20-8 overall, 6-2 C-USA) took the first two games vs. Rice last weekend (12-1, 8-7), but were not able to finish off the sweep and lost 7-6 on Sunday to the Owls. Then, Southern Miss split a midweek two-game home set vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, with a 9-8 victory followed by a 7-4 loss.

The trio of Luke Reynolds (.357/.508/.673), Hunter Slater (.348/.416/.589) and Matt Wallner (.347/.492/.633) lead the Golden Eagles at the plate. They have combined for 94 runs and 87 RBIs, and have tallied 45 of the team’s 86 total extra-base hits.

On the mound, righty Nick Sandlin has been one of the nation’s best through the first half of the season. The reliever-turned-starter owns a 4-0 record with a 1.31 ERA through seven starts; he is holding opposing hitters to a .161 batting average and boast a 73-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 48 innings.

Lefty Stevie Powers (2.97 ERA, 35-to-7 ratio in 36.1 innings) and righty Walker Powell (3.56 ERA, 26-to-8 ratio in 30.1 innings) are likely to follow Sandlin in the rotation.

On the WKU side, lefty Ryan Thurston has a 3.25 ERA in 44 1/3 innings of work with a 50-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Thurston has received 33 runs of support in seven starts (4.7 average), but 31 of those came in a span of three starts vs. Northern Illinois, West Virginia and Bowling Green. Meanwhile, the senior has gotten only two runs of support in the four other starts, including three of the team’s four times being shut out.

At the plate, Jacob Rhinesmith is one stolen base and one home run away from becoming only the second player in Division I to reach the 10-10 mark this season (Bren Spillane, Illinois).

Steven Kraft boasts a team-high .360/.467/.480 slash line and 18-game on-base streak. The senior was 1-of-3 C-USA players to reach base in every game he played in the month of March.


Toppers to visit No. 7 Kentucky in midweek matchup

After winning 4-of-5 games in the opening homestand at Nick Denes Field, Western Kentucky's baseball team travels to Lexington to take on No. 7 Kentucky in a Tuesday matchup at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

First pitch between the Hilltoppers and Wildcats is set for 3 p.m. CT and will be available via stream on SEC Network+.

By defeating Belmont in the home opener and then taking the first three games vs. Northern Illinois, WKU put together its first four-game win streak since April 22-26, 2016, when the Hilltoppers swept UTSA at home and then went on the road to defeat Lipscomb in a midweek contest.

The Huskies salvaged a 5-0 victory in the series finale Sunday to deny WKU a five-game win streak at Nick Denes Field for the first time since a nine-game run Feb. 16-to-March 21, 2014.

Midweek Preview

Kentucky holds a 34-28 all-time series advantage, but WKU has gone 9-4 against UK dating back to 2009. The Wildcats took both games against the Hilltoppers last season, including a 17-2 win at Cliff Hagan Stadium and a 4-3 win in Bowling Green.

On March 1 in Lexington, Kentucky jumped on WKU for 10 runs in the first two innings. Kevin Lambert hit his first career home run, a solo shot to left field, for the Hilltoppers in the sixth inning.

Three weeks later at Bowling Green Ballpark, the No. 19 Wildcats took a 4-0 lead in the fourth, but WKU kept creeping back in the game. The Hilltoppers put up two runs in the bottom of the fourth, then another in the eighth, but were unable to even it up in a 4-3 loss. Kaleb Duckworth, Thomas Peter and Hunter Wood each had two hits, while the WKU bullpen fired five scoreless innings.

This season, No. 7 Kentucky boasts a 7-1 record through the first two weekends with a plus-45 run differential, winning four games in a weekend in Spartanburg, S.C., and sweeping Oakland in a three-game home series.

The Wildcats' lone loss was in midweek, falling to Xavier on Feb. 20 by a score of 3-2 in 10 innings. Lefty Brad Schaenzer got the starting nod against the Musketeers, allowing two earned runs in five innings, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out four.

Left fielder Luke Heyer and designated hitter T.J. Collett have led the way for the Kentucky offense, combining for nine home runs and 27 RBIs while batting .333 and .344, respectively. They will go up against a Hilltopper pitching staff that has allowed only 25 runs through the first eight games, which ranks second among WKU teams in the past 40 years (24 runs allowed in 1981).

In the first midweek game of the season Feb. 20, WKU coach John Pawlowski used nine pitchers in a 4-1 victory over Belmont. Lefty Evan Acosta got the start and allowed one run in the first inning, then the subsequent eight relievers combined for eight scoreless. Each WKU pitcher got 2-to-4 outs, while none faced more than five batters in his appearance.


WKU set to open softball season in North Carolina

Western Kentucky's softball team is set to open the 2018 season this weekend in Boiling Springs, N.C., at a Gardner-Webb-hosted tournament. Five games are on the slate with doubleheaders on both Friday and Saturday and one more game on Sunday.

Weekend action is set to commence Friday with the first of three weekend games against Hampton, a team WKU has never faced. The Pirates are coming off of a 23-22 campaign in 2017. In the day’s second contest, the Hilltoppers will take on the host Runnin’ Bulldogs in a 3 p.m. game. WKU and Gardner-Webb have met once prior, back in 2002 when the Hilltoppers won a 5-3 decision in Atlanta.

On Saturday, WKU will play Youngstown State. The Penguins went 31-28 a year ago and have been predicted to finish second in the Horizon League’s preseason poll. This will mark the first meeting between WKU and YSU.

Games four and five on the weekend pit the Hilltoppers against Hampton to close out tournament play.

WKU has claimed its season-opener each of the last five seasons and will look to extend the streak. Coach Amy Tudor is 13-0 in her career in season-opening contests entering her 14th season as a head coach.

Brittany Vaughn is the lone senior on the 2018 roster for the Hilltoppers after transferring in from Memphis prior to her redshirt-junior campaign last season. Vaughn started all 62 games in her first year at WKU, primarily at shortstop. At the plate, Vaughn slashed .277/.482/.362 with nine home runs while leading the team with 38 RBIs and 43 runs scored.

Remaining upperclassmen include outfielders Kelsey McGuffin and Jordan Vorbrink – a transfer from Louisville – and infielder Rebekah Engelhardt. Redshirt-sophomore pitcher Cassidy Blackford also enters her third season at WKu.

Following this weekend’s action in North Carolina, the Hilltopper squad will hit the road again next weekend to head to Tennessee for the Chattanooga Challenge.


WKU set to compete in 2-day Music City Challenge

In the final meet before the Conference USA Indoor Championships, Western Kentucky's track and field team is headed to the Vanderbilt-hosted Music City Challenge this Friday and Saturday in Nashville.

Up to 27 teams and 750 student-athletes are expected to compete this weekend from the Vanderbilt Multipurpose Facility.

More than 30 combined Hilltoppers are scheduled to compete this weekend with representatives entered in 24 different events. Friday’s competition will kick off at 4 p.m. CT and last until approximately 9:30 p.m. before resuming Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

WKU has individuals from both the men’s and women’s teams with the top Conference USA mark in an event with Julius Morris in the 200-meter dash and Morgan McIntyre in the pole vault. Both top marks came in the Hilltoppers’ most recent outing with Morris running a converted mark of 20.98 seconds and McIntyre clearing 3.98 meters (13 feet, 0.75 inches).

Admission is $5 each day for spectators. For parking on Friday prior to 6 p.m., spectators are asked to park in the 25th Street garage on levels 9-11. After 6 p.m. parking in lot #75 off of Natchez Trace will be permitted. On Saturday, spectators are asked to use lot #75 again.

WKU Volleyball

Lady Tops set to host UTEP, UTSA in weekend volleyball action

Currently riding a 22-set win streak since the Conference USA opener on Sept. 22, Western Kentucky's volleyball team will look to continue its dominant ways as UTEP and UTSA come to town for a pair of matchups at E.A. Diddle Arena this weekend.

The Lady Toppers will host the Miners (4-16 overall, 1-6 C-USA) Friday at 6 p.m., opening weekend action with the free admission Dig 4 Pink event. On Sunday, UTSA (7-11, 5-1) will come to town for a noon first serve.  

WKU currently owns a 17-match win streak and sits at 21-2 on the year. The Lady Toppers have won 32 consecutive matches against C-USA opponents dating back to 2015. Additionally, WKU has won 48 straight matchups with conference opponents when playing at Diddle Arena, dating back to the Sun Belt Conference era in 2011.

Friday night’s contest features free admission while donations for both the Hope 4 Harlie and Friends of Jaclyn Foundations will be collected at the door. The first 100 fans will receive a free Dig 4 Pink shirt as well. On Sunday, fans can bring in a church bulletin or announcements and receive free admission for Faith and Family Day.

The Miners return nine of last year’s 12 letterwinners from head coach Holly Watts’ 8-22 squad. Additionally, UTEP returns three starters but lost two plus its libero.

WKU owns a 6-0 advantage in the all-time series against UTEP as the sides have met twice each year since the Lady Toppers joined Conference USA. WKU has swept every meeting entering Friday night’s.

On Sunday, the Lady Toppers will host UTSA – which has won four straight matches entering the weekend. The Roadrunners sit in fourth place in the league standings currently and are one of four teams with one or fewer losses in conference play.

Common opponents between WKU and UTSA this year include Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee. UTSA claimed victories over each squad in four sets while WKU picked up wins with sweeps.

Head coach Laura Neugerbauer-Groff returns nine letterwinners from last season’s 14-player roster that posted a 20-8 record. Three starters return while three plus the libero were lost.

UTSA is one of the two C-USA squads that has a win over the Lady Toppers since 2014, but WKU owns the advantage in the all-time series 4-1. All five prior meetings have been decided in four sets.

WKU Women's Soccer

Lady Tops head west to battle Roadrunners

Western Kentucky's women's soccer team will take its longest Conference USA trip away from home of the season on Thursday, going on the road to take on UTSA at 7 p.m at the Park West Athletics Complex in San Antonio, Texas.

The Lady Toppers (5-8-1, 2-4-1 C-USA) are coming off a pair of home victories over Florida Atlantic and FIU last weekend, picking up six points in the C-USA standings. Heading into Thursday night’s match, WKU sits three points out of the eighth and final qualifying spot for the C-USA Tournament with three games left to play.

Chandler Backes netted her team-leading fifth goal of the season against FIU on Sunday, moving into a tie for 10th place on WKU’s all-time career chart in the category. In just 33 matches at WKU, the sophomore has scored 15 goals to match Morgan Thomas’ goal-scoring mark. Backes is now just three goals shy of passing Betsy Duncan for ninth place in all-time goals among Lady Toppers.

Freshman Tally Bishop made her mark in WKU’s victories last weekend, notching the match-winner against Florida Atlantic before adding the insurance goal to secure the win over FIU. The Nashville native now has three goals on the season, including another match-winner in the season opener at Lipscomb on Aug. 18.

Defensively, WKU sports both the reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Week in Christina Bragado and the Goalkeeper of the Week with Allison Leone. Bragado, who has started every match at center back in 2017, claimed the honor for the second time this season after leading the Lady Toppers’ defense to a pair of shutouts; under Bragado’s watch, WKU has also not surrendered a goal in 252 consecutive minutes dating back to Oct. 6.

Leone, one of the top goalkeepers in program history, made four combined saves against the Owls and Panthers last weekend to register her fourth and fifth solo shutouts of the season. The senior now has 27 for her career, the second-best mark in school history, and 286 saves, which trail only Meredith Goodson and Libby Stout on the WKU charts. With her Goalkeeper of the Week honor, Leone also became the most decorated weekly award winner in WKU women's soccer history, bringing home her fourth career honor and second this season.

UTSA (2-12, 1-6 C-USA) enters Thursday’s match on a five-match skid, with its last victory coming in a 1-0 decision on the road at Middle Tennessee on Sept. 24. The Roadrunners have netted only eight goals in 14 matches this season, led by four strikes from freshman Ellis Patterson. Channing Machen has tallied three goals for UTSA, while Marianne Hernandez notched the final score for the Roadrunners.

In goal, the Roadrunners have split time between Michelle Cole and Gabriella Mariello, with Cole playing 745 minutes and Mariello manning the posts for 515 minutes. Mariello sports a 1.92 goals against average with 11 goals surrendered and 25 saves, while Cole has given up 27 goals and made 49 stops for a 3.26 goals against average. In total, UTSA has given up 38 goals in 2017, the most of any team in C-USA.

WKU holds a perfect 3-0 record in the all-time series against the Roadrunners, defeating UTSA once in each of the last three seasons since joining C-USA. In the most recent meeting between the two sides, the Lady Toppers claimed a 2-0 win in rainy conditions behind two late goals from Sarah Gorham (88th minute) and Iris Dunn (89th minute) in Bowling Green.

Following Thursday’s match, the Lady Toppers will be back in action for their regular season home finale Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at the WKU Soccer Complex as they square off against Marshall. WKU will honor each of its five seniors; Leone, Nahyo Jalajel, Shayna Dheel, Bria Mosley and Hannah Chua; in a post-match ceremony following the bout with the Thundering Herd.

WKU Men's Basketball

Tops' five outgoing seniors land professional contracts

  • Updated

All five members of the outgoing Western Kentucky men's basketball class of 2017 have had opportunities to play basketball professionally overseas from practice squads to signed contracts.

Que Johnson was the most recent Hilltopper to sign with a professional team as he will play for Joinville Basketball in Brazil this year. The Pontiac, Mich., native started in all 32 WKU games last year as a graduate senior guard. He averaged 13.2 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Hilltoppers, and he reached 1,000 career points against Ohio just before the midpoint of the season. Johnson was consistent at the free-throw line with a 73.8 percent clip.

Longtime Hilltopper Ben Lawson is currently playing for Lefke Avrupa Üniversitesi in Cyprus this season. The 7-foot-1 forward was the only graduate of the class who completed all four years of NCAA eligibility at WKU. In his final season for the Hilltoppers, Lawson averaged 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. With 57 blocks on the season, Lawson ended his career with 185 blocks, finishing fourth on WKU’s all-time list.

Also on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus this year will be Junior Lomomba and Anton Waters, who will both play for APOP Paphou Basketball Club. Lomomba – a Quebec, Canada, native – was a graduate senior for the Hilltoppers in 2016-17 after transferring from Providence. The guard started in all 32 of WKU’s games last year, and he became the first Hilltopper to record at least four games of seven assists or more since Jamal Crook in 2010-11. 

Hailing from Baltimore, Waters played for Gulf Coast State College before finishing the last two years of his collegiate career as a Hilltopper. In 2016-17, Waters averaged 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in only 17.9 minutes per game. As a senior, he played in 32 games for WKU, starting in 14 of the last 15 match-ups.

Pancake Thomas earned opportunities to play overseas as he started the summer of 2017 with the Mitteldeutscher Basketball Club in Germany before joining the practice squad of Pallacanestro Cantù in Italy. Thomas played for WKU as a graduate senior after playing at New Mexico and Hartford. His seven 3s against UTEP in January were one shy of the record for most by a WKU player in Diddle Arena. The Baton Rouge, La., native averaged 13.8 points and 3.3 rebounds while starting in all 32 games for the Hilltoppers.

Including these five Hilltoppers, there are nearly 20 former WKU players playing professionally as the 2017-18 season begins.

Lady Tops set to host Florida Atlantic, FIU in weekend matches

Western Kentucky is set to host a pair of weekend matches at the WKU Soccer Complex, beginning with a tilt against Florida Atlantic at 6 p.m. on Friday before a matchup on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. against FIU.

The Lady Toppers (3-8-1, 0-4-1 C-USA) will be seeking their first victory in conference play this season against the Owls and Panthers. Last week, WKU fell in a tight 1-0 decision at Middle Tennessee, and its match at UAB originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon was cancelled and rescheduled for Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. in Birmingham.

The offensive trio of Chandler Backes, Sarah Gorham and Hannah Chua enter the weekend as the top attacking threats for the Lady Toppers. The three have each appeared in all 12 matches for WKU this season and have combined for 68 of the team’s 140 shots (48.6 percent); of those 68 shots, the group has placed 31 on goal and has accounted for 11 of WKU’s 23 points as a team. Backes’ four goals and two assists both represent team highs for the Lady Toppers.

Across 12 matches in 2017, WKU has limited its opponents to just 12 total goals and has not surrendered more than two goals in a single match. Along with strong play from the back line, goalkeeper Allison Leone’s 0.97 goals against average in 1,110 minutes has helped to keep the Lady Toppers within striking distance in every match this season; Leone has also totaled 57 saves and is just 18 stops short of 300 for her career.

Historically, WKU has found success against both Florida Atlantic and FIU, leading the combined series against the two by a 13-8-5 margin. Since joining C-USA, the Lady Toppers are 2-1-1 in the combined series; WKU is still seeking its first C-USA win over Florida Atlantic, but has earned a pair of 1-0 victories over FIU in both C-USA meetings between the two sides. In Bowling Green against the Owls and Panthers, WKU is a combined 8-1-2 in the all-time series.

Florida Atlantic (7-6-2, 2-3-1 C-USA) enters Friday’s match coming off a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at Charlotte last Sunday afternoon. The Owls took a 2-0 lead on the 49ers following goals early in each half, but Charlotte fired back with three goals in the final 34 minutes, including the match-winner from Martha Thomas in the 85th minute, to claim the comeback win.

Ebba Blomqvist leads the Owls with four goals this season and is one of four Florida Atlantic players with three or more goals, joining Elisha Holmes, Pernille Velta and Miracle Porter. Velta is the team’s leading point-scorer with three goals and a team-best four assists on the season, and Asta Arnadottir is the team’s leader with 12 shots on goal in 2017.

In goal, Jennifer Ocampo has played every minute between the posts for the Owls, making 67 saves with a 1.23 goals against average across 1,396 minutes of play. Ocampo has collected four solo shutouts against Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Oakland and Old Dominion this season and has surrendered just 19 goals across 15 matches.

Entering the weekend, FIU (1-9, 0-5 C-USA) has dropped five consecutive matches, four of which have been defeats by multiple goals. The Panthers have scored only three goals this season; Courtney Phillips and Ashley Adams have each scored once for the Panthers, while the third score came off an own goal against Jacksonville on Sept. 3.

Nevena Stojakovic has been the lone goalkeeper for the Panthers this season, allowing 19 goals in 905 minutes while collecting 57 saves for a 1.89 goals against average.

Following this weekend’s matches, the Lady Toppers will travel to San Antonio, Texas, for a single-match road trip at UTSA next Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. WKU owns a perfect 3-0 record all-time against the Roadrunners, including a 2-0 shutout victory in Bowling Green this season. Gorham netted the breakthrough goal for the Lady Toppers in the 88th minute in that win, and Iris Dunn doubled the WKU lead less than one minute later to claim the victory.

Lady Tops head south for weekend road trip

Breaking up a pair of four-match homestands, Western Kentucky's volleyball team is headed out for a long weekend of travel with stops at UAB and FIU on the docket.

The Lady Toppers will look to continue building on their Conference USA-record 30-straight wins over league opponents first on Friday night with a 7 p.m. CT tilt slated in Birmingham, Ala. Weekend play will conclude Sunday at noon CT down in Miami.

After its non-conference finale with Austin Peay on Tuesday, WKU (19-2) will jump back into Conference USA action Friday night at Bartow Arena. UAB enters the weekend match up with a 9-12 overall record and an even 3-3 mark in C-USA play. The Blazers are currently tied for sixth in the league’s standings while WKU sits atop the rankings with the only unblemished C-USA record remaining at 5-0.

UAB and WKU have common opponents in Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, Charlotte and Louisiana Tech entering the weekend. WKU swept all four common teams while UAB dropped 3-1 decisions to Austin Peay, Charlotte and Louisiana Tech. The Blazers defeated Middle Tennessee 3-1.

The Blazers return 12-of-17 letterwinners from last year’s 11-19 squad in addition to all six starters. UAB leads the all-time series against the Lady Toppers 22-7 with WKU claiming the six most recent decisions dating back to 1996.

On Sunday, WKU will turn its attention to the FIU Panthers. FIU enters its weekend opener against Charlotte owning a 2-10 overall record. The Panthers own a 1-4 showing in C-USA play and are tied for 11th in the standings. 

Due to Hurricane Irma, WKU and FIU have only faced one common opponent on the season as the Panthers’ match against Ohio State as part of the Coastal Carolina Classic was canceled. FIU dropped a 3-1 decision to Tennessee State in Nashville, Tenn., back on Sept. 2, just after WKU swept the Tigers in the 2017 Diddle Arena opener on Aug. 29.

FIU returns 13 of its 19 letterwinners from last year’s 9-19 squad. Additionally three starters and the libero return from Rita Buck Crockett’s 2016 unit.

WKU leads the all-time series against the Panthers 33-8 including wins in the 14 most-recent matchups. The Lady Toppers have swept FIU in every meeting during their Conference USA membership.

Following the weekend matchups, WKU will return home for its second four-match homestand of the season starting on Oct. 20 with UTEP.

Tops head west for Southern Dunes Invitational

It’s a battle to qualify for tournaments for the Western Kentucky men's golf team this season, and head coach Phillip Hatchett says that’s a good thing.

Competition has been fierce each week for the Hilltoppers, who return to action this weekend at Wyoming’s Southern Dunes Invitational after a few weeks off from tournament play. 

Hatchett said it’s taken scores of around even-par to qualify for WKU this season, which has dropped by about three strokes in recent years.

“It just shows what kind of depth we have this year that we haven’t had in years past,” Hatchett said in a news release. “It’s just going to be a lot of fun when people start firing on all cylinders.” 

WKU will be one of 12 teams participating Saturday and Sunday at the par-72, 7,546-yard Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Ariz. Play is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. CT both days with a shotgun start. 

Juniors Blake Smith and Stuart Easton, redshirt junior Billy Tom Sargent and freshmen Chase Landrum and Crimson Callahan will represent the Hilltoppers this week.

WKU hasn’t competed in nearly a month but is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Memphis Intercollegiate on Sept. 19.

The Hilltoppers had three golfers finish in the top 11 individually, led by Easton’s tie for fifth. Callahan tied for 11th in his second college tournament, while Landrum also made his college debut.

“The first tournament in Indiana was a little bit of a struggle,” Callahan said. “It was the first realization of what college golf life is like. We moved forward to Memphis and finished tied for 11th, came back strong and now loving college golf.”

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