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Hilltoppers sweep MTSU in series opener

No. 21 WKU Volleyball improved to 13-0 on the season adding another sweep of FIU on Monday.
No. 21 WKU Volleyball improved to 13-0 on the season adding another sweep of FIU on Monday.(Hunter Smith)
Published: Mar. 20, 2021 at 10:08 PM CDT
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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WBKO) -No. 20 Western Kentucky Volleyball improved to 15-0 on the season and 9-0 in Conference USA play with Saturday’s sweep over the Blue Raiders from Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Hilltoppers leaned on the strong play of Katie Isenbarger, Kayland Jackson, and Paige Briggs to overcome a slow start and claim their 12th sweep of the season. WKU’s offense worked at a .410 hitting clip while MTSU hit .174.

“Honestly, I’m pretty disappointed in how we played today,” opened WKU head coach Travis Hudson. “We had a lot of missed assignments and careless mistakes. The bright spot was the play of Avri Davis, Katie Isenbarger, and Kayland Jackson. I thought all three of them played very, very well. And I thought Paige Briggs really carried us from a defensive standpoint when we were struggling early.”

Middle Tennessee is now 5-8 overall and 4-6 in Conference USA play.

The opening frame saw the Hilltoppers in an early hole but eventually work into double digits first, stretching out to a 12-9 lead. Middle Tennessee responded out of the timeout with a 4-0 run to take a 13-12 lead before a Briggs kill tied it up. The Hilltoppers would close the frame on a 7-0 run for a 25-17 first-set victory. Isenbarger tallied a kill on all five swings she took.

Set two saw MTSU strike first again and open up an 8-6 lead before the Hilltoppers went on a 5-0 run to take an 11-8 advantage. WKU would push ahead to a 14-9 lead and force the Blue Raiders’ second timeout. From there, the Tops worked to a 20-11 lead before claiming the frame 25-15 for a 2-0 lead in the match.

An Avri Davis kill put the Hilltoppers on the board first in the final frame. WKU would be the first to double digits again but the Blue Raiders would hang around, forcing four ties with the final coming at 12-12. MTSU pulled back within one at 22-21 but back-to-back kills from Briggs and Isenbarger gave the Tops some breathing room before Jackson found the floor to end the set with a 25-22 win.

In the final frame, the Hilltopper offense worked at a .500 clip while firing off 18 kills against just two errors.

Briggs racked up her ninth double-double of the season with 12 kills and 13 digs to go along with three blocks, two assists, and an ace.

Davis, Isenbarger, and Jackson each tallied seven kills apiece – all without a single error. Davis hit .500 while Isenbarger operated at a .700 mark and Jackson worked at a .778 clip – all season bests.

Nadia Dieudonne facilitated the Hilltoppers to their fourth match hitting above .400 on the season. The senior setter tallied 37 assists to go along with four kills, four digs and a block.

Cam Mosley registered a pair of aces for the Hilltoppers while Briggs, Ashley Hood and Hallie Shelton each added one.

The Tops (15-0) will close out the series in Murfreesboro on Sunday with a 1 p.m. CT first serve against the Blue Raiders.

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