NORFOLK, Va. – Hilltopper Volleyball used a stellar all-around performance to sweep its Conference USA Tournament-opening match against UAB Friday night. Nadia Dieudonne facilitated the offense to a .384 hitting percentage while dishing out 42 assists and tallying 10 digs for her second double double of the season. Paige Briggs (15) and Lauren Matthews (12) both delivered double-digit kills while Logan Kael (15) joined Dieudonne with double-digit digs.
“That was a complete performance,” opened head coach Travis Hudson. “It always starts with ball control and I thought our passing was outstanding today. We played well in all facets and did everything we needed to do to control the match from beginning to end.”
No. 18 WKU Volleyball climbs to 25-1 on the season including 18-consecutive wins while the Blazers’ season ends with an 11-14 record. The Hilltoppers are now 19-1 all-time in the Conference USA Tournament, including seven-straight wins in the postseason event.
“A special group of kids that can really play,” added Hudson. “This is their time; they love to play when it matters most and they were really, really good today.”
WKU at CHARLOTTE – 25-16, 25-13, 25-15
After UAB scored the opening point of the match, the Hilltoppers quickly took a 3-1 lead before a 4-0 run off the serve of Ashley Hood pushed WKU head 7-2. The Tops’ quick 11-6 advantage would soon be erased as UAB pulled back within one at 14-13. A booming kill from Briggs doubled WKU’s lead heading into the media timeout. Out of the stoppage, Kael struck for an ace before Briggs and Katie Isenbarger teamed up for a block. Briggs registered another kill for a quick 3-0 run for the Red and White to give WKU an 18-13 lead and force a UAB timeout. The Hilltoppers kept their foot on the pedal and took a 1-0 lead in the match with a 25-16 first set win.
WKU struck for 18 kills in the frame with all five attackers recording at least three. The Tops operated at a .389 hitting clip in the set while holding the Blazers to their match-best of .161.
Set two opened with the sides trading the first four points before Hallie Shelton led the Hilltoppers on a 5-0 run to push ahead to another 7-2 lead. WKU was the first to double digits in the second frame with a 10-4 lead before pushing out to a 17-7 advantage. Back-to-back Avri Davis kills forced UAB’s second timeout of the frame at 17-7. Kayland Jackson and Matthews teamed up for a block out of the break before Briggs struck for back-to-back kills to give the Hilltoppers a 23-12 lead. From there, Isenbarger closed the frame with a kill for the 25-13 win and 2-0 lead in the match.
The Hilltoppers operated at a scorching .636 hitting clip, striking for kills on 15-of-22 swings in the frame. UAB worked at a mere .037 rate.
All tied at 3-3 early in the final set, UAB took a 5-3 lead after back-to-back blocks. The Blazers would break a 9-9 tie and hit double digits first in the set before a kill from Davis would mark the last tie of the set (10-10) and open a 9-0 separating run for WKU. A UAB-called timeout stopped the bleeding at 18-10 and a few points later, a Coach Hudson-won challenge gave WKU a 20-12 lead. Isenbarger would strike for a kill to close the match with a 25-15 set three victory.
The third set saw eight ties and two lead changes while the whole match saw 11 and four, respectively.
Briggs operated at a .481 hitting percentage and came a dig shy of her seventh double double of the season.
“The thing that I liked most that Paige did today was I thought she really set a tone for our team defensively,” Hudson shared of the junior outside hitter. “Early on, she made some tremendous plays with great control, defensively, and it really got us into transition well and we did some things based on her digs and then she got going offensively.”
“Our defensive mindset was just to keep the ball off the ground,” shared Briggs. “We knew they were going to take a lot of swings and would get some kills. It was fun to see my teammates really going after it.”
Isenbarger racked up eight kills on 12 errorless swings for a .667 hitting clip to go along with four blocks. Davis added six kills while Kayland Jackson chipped in five.
Matthews joined Isenbarger with a team-best four blocks while Dieudonne and Jackson both added three.
Defensively, the Hilltoppers out-dug UAB 48-29 while holding the Blazers to a collective .102 efficiency on the match. Nine different WKU players registered a dig in the victory.
From the service line, Hood, Shelton and Kael each tallied an ace. On the flip side, WKU was flawless in serve-receive in the sweep.
With the win, WKU advances to Saturday’s semifinal match against the winner of FIU and UTEP. First serve is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT from the ODU Volleyball Center on Saturday and while be streamed on ESPN+. Action will also be live on ESPN 102.7 FM with Brett Williams on the call.
- WKU used the lineup of Paige Briggs, Avri Davis, Lauren Matthews, Katie Isenbarger, Kayland Jackson, Nadia Dieudonne and Logan Kael at libero for the 10th time this season. This was the Hilltopper lineup to start the season and the group owns a 9-1 record.
- WKU has now won the last five meetings against UAB and moved to 14-23 all-time against the Blazers with Friday’s victory.
- With the win, the Hilltoppers improve to 25-1 (12-0 C-USA) on the season.
- WKU is now 19-1 all-time in the Conference USA Tournament. That record breaks down to 59-16 by set. The Hilltoppers have won their last seven C-USA Tournament matches.
- Hallie Shelton struck for another ace to bring her career total to 182. She continues to close in on the program record of 206 held by Lindsey Gould.
- Nadia Dieudonne recorded her second double double of the season with 42 assists and 10 digs in the win. She’s up to 12 as a Hilltopper and 23 on her collegiate career. Additionally, she’s recorded 40 or more assists in four-consecutive matches.
- With 12 kills on the day, Lauren Matthews moved into ninth on WKU’s career kills list and now owns 1,354.
- Adding four blocks in the match, Katie Isenbarger is now one block shy (299) of becoming the 12th player in WKU Volleyball history to reach the 300-block milestone.
- With the day’s results, head coach Travis Hudson is now 690-217 across his career.
- WKU Volleyball is now up to an all-time program record of 968-492 with Friday’s win.
How to Follow WKU Volleyball: For complete information on WKU Volleyball, follow the team on Twitter at @WKUVolleyball and head coach Travis Hudson at @TravisHudsonWKU. The team is also on Instagram and Facebook.