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Tops Battle to Four-Set Win at Marshall, Perfect 11-0 Start

Tops Move to 3-0 on 2020-21 Season After Two-Win Day.
Tops Move to 3-0 on 2020-21 Season After Two-Win Day.(Hunter Smith)
Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 6:45 PM CST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WBKO) -No. 21 Western Kentucky Volleyball earned a hard-fought four-set victory over Marshall in Huntington, W.Va. on Monday. The win extended the Hilltoppers’ best-undefeated start in program history to 11 matches as the squad claimed its first road matches of the 2020-21 campaign. An all-around team effort, the Red and White racked up 93 digs – the most by a Conference USA squad this season.

“We were in a battle today,” opened head coach Travis Hudson. “Marshall played really, really well for a good portion of the match. They defended at a tremendously high level and again forced us into some things offensively that we hadn’t done in the past. I thought our team showed great character to hang in there after the first set loss on the road and find a way to win.”

WKU Volleyball improved to 11-0 on the season and 6-0 in Conference USA with its third sweep in as many series against league opponents. Nine of those victories have been sweeps while Marshall and Mercer have each lost to the Tops in four sets.

Marshall came out hot in Monday’s opening set and would ultimately be the first team to take a lead on the Hilltoppers in a match this season, claiming the frame 25-21. WKU made numerous surges to tighten the score but the Thundering Herd would respond. The Red and White were held to just a .085 hitting clip in the opening set while Marshall operated at a rate of .250.

The 25-21 loss to Marshall was just the second set the Tops had dropped in the 2020-21 campaign.

In set two, WKU struck first before a challenge overturned a 2-0 lead to a 1-1 tie. Marshall would work out to a 6-3 lead before a 10-2 Hilltopper run gave the Red and White a 13-6 advantage. WKU pushed out to a 16-9 advantage before taking a 20-12 lead to force a Marshall timeout. After being held without a kill in the opening frame, Lauren Matthews tallied six in the second set – including one for each of WKU’s final two points.

WKU jumped out to a 10-6 lead in set three and never looked back. A 6-1 run split by a Marshall timeout allowed the Tops to push their five-point lead to nine at 24-15 before securing a 2-1 lead in the match with the 25-18 third-set win.

Just the second fourth set the Hilltoppers played this season saw WKU lead from start to finish – the lone frame without a tied score. The Red and White claimed the set 25-9 for a 3-1 victory over Marshall. WKU operated at a .441 clip in the frame with 17 kills against just two errors while holding the Herd to a .083 mark with just six kills.

All 10 players that appeared in Monday’s match for WKU recorded at least one dig as the team racked up a total of 93. For the first time since Sept. 7, 2018, five Hilltoppers registered double-digit digs. Paige Briggs, Nadia Dieudonne, and Logan Kael each tallied 17 apiece while Hallie Shelton added 15 and Ashley Hood posted 12. Shelton added four of WKU’s six aces on the day as well.

Dieudonne earned her first double-double of the season adding a season-best 57 assists to her 17 digs. Her 57 assists across four sets ranks as the eighth-most in a match that length in the NCAA this season. She also added a kill and an ace while facilitating the team to a .256 hitting percentage.

Briggs collected her seventh double-double of the season adding 21 kills (tied career-high) on 60 swings (new career-high). Monday’s match is the first match of the 2020-21 campaign that saw multiple Hilltoppers earn double-doubles.

Matthews finished with 13 kills against three errors across the final three sets of the victory. She added three digs and a pair of blocks.

Another Hilltopper to post career numbers was Avri Davis, who posted a career-best 10 kills to go along with a .296 attack rate, two blocks and two digs.

With its first road trip since 2019 in the books, WKU Volleyball will be home again this weekend as FIU comes to town for a Sunday – Monday Conference USA series. First serve will go up at noon CT on both days.

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