Hilltoppers Sweep Charlotte as Hudson Wins 650th Career Match
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -No. 20 WKU Volleyball improved to 8-0 on the season – matching the best start in program history – with Sunday’s 3-0 sweep of visiting Charlotte.
A steady day from the service line and solid blocking effort helped lead the Hilltoppers past the 49ers who entered the match as the second-place team in the Conference USA East Division. WKU has now swept seven of its eight victories on the 2020-21 season.
“This was a really good volleyball match,” opened head coach Travis Hudson. “Karen is doing a great job with that Charlotte team. Come conference tournament time, they’ll be a team that will have a chance to win that thing; they’re physical, talented, and handle the ball well. I had a lot of respect from watching them on film and then seeing them in person certainly did nothing to hurt that. We’re really glad to get the win and it will take another great effort tomorrow.”
Sunday’s win marked Hudson’s 650th career victory – all at WKU – making him just the 15th active Division I volleyball coach to achieve the milestone.
“It’s just hard to believe,” shared Hudson. I’m just the ball coach here at Western Kentucky, trying to do the best job that I can every day and I’m not worried about people thinking I’m one of the best in the country or anything like that. If the players in my lockerroom feel good about me being their coach and they know that I love and care about them and am making them better players and better people then that’s enough for me. I want to be the one people that does that more than I want to win 650 times on the court.”
“I think it’s awesome, there are obviously not a lot of coaches that have done this and it shows Travis has been here for 26 years,” Nadia Dieudonne opened about Hudson’s 650th win at WKU. “If anything, I feel like my time here is a blessing to me because I get to experience why he has that many wins. We’re going to keep on going and see how many we can get for him.”
In the opening frame, Charlotte jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and held it until WKU took a quick lead at 9-8 following a kill by Avri Davis. Charlotte then went on another 4-0 run to retake the lead 12-9. The Tops responded with a 16-6 run and scored seven out of the last eight points to win the set. During that run, WKU recorded five kills, two from Paige Briggs, two from Davis, and one from Kayland Jackson to give the Tops what they needed to claim the first set 25-18. The Red and White hit at a rate of .219 while holding Charlotte to .148.
Set two was back-and-forth for the entire way and would ultimately need a few extra points to determine a winner. WKU held a 12-7 advantage when Charlotte called their first timeout. This followed back-to-back aces by Briggs who recorded three of the team’s seven aces throughout the match. Charlotte would respond, keeping the score close but WKU never gave up the lead after tying at 22-22 and 24-24. On a mission, Matthews racked up eight of the team’s 15 kills in the set, while finishing with a team-high 14 on the match, giving WKU the edge in the second set, 26-24. Both teams improved their hitting percentages from set one, the Tops hit at .500, while Charlotte worked at a .348 rate.
The sides worked out to a 7-7 tie out of the break. WKU went on a 3-0 run, featuring two kills by Matthews, giving the Tops a 10-7 lead and they never looked back. Kills by Jackson, Nadia Dieudonne, Briggs, Davis, Katie Isenbarger, and Matthews all played a role in getting the Tops the 3-0 set sweep after Logan Kael finished the match on an ace to give the tops a 25-17 win in the third set.
Matthews finished with 14 kills on 25 attempts for a .400 hitting clip to go along with three solo blocks and four total errors.
“I just took it as a personal challenge to play through it and not give up,” Matthews said about her slow start. “I couldn’t let my teammates down; if I’m down and showing that, it would bring them down and we can’t have that.”
Isenbarger also had three total blocks along with Jackson and Dieudonne who recorded 2 each. Dieudonne added 34 assists and five digs as well to help WKU to a solid .370 team hitting percentage.
Briggs finished with a steady line of nine kills for a .421 hitting percentage along with a team-best nine digs, three aces, and three assists.
Hallie Shelton and Kael each added two aces.
Sunday’s victory also marked WKU’s 100th win over a Conference USA opponent – regular season and postseason included – since joining the league prior to the 2014 campaign.
WKU Volleyball is back in action again on Monday as they close out the series against the 49ers. First serve is set for noon CT from E.A. Diddle Arena
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