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Tops sweep UTEP, secure 20th win

The Hilltoppers downed UTEP in straight sets by scores of 25-13, 25-9 and 25-11 to post the...
The Hilltoppers downed UTEP in straight sets by scores of 25-13, 25-9 and 25-11 to post the program’s 21st-consecutive 20-win season.(Jordan Foreman/Conference USA)
Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 5:25 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WBKO) -No. 19 WesternKentucky Volleyball operated at a season-best .488 hitting percentage to secure a spot in Saturday’s Conference USA Tournament Championship match. The Hilltoppers downed UTEP in straight sets by scores of 25-13, 25-9, and 25-11 to post the program’s 21st-consecutive 20-win season.

“My goodness, what a performance by our team; so complete from beginning to end,” opened head coach Travis Hudson. “It’s kind of what we’ve been building for, to find a day where we’re doing everything well and today was that day. We were hitting on all cylinders. We served the ball incredibly well; we played great defense and we were who we are offensively a lot. I’m really, really proud of our team and so proud to be back in the championship match.”

WKU improved to 20-0 with its sixth-straight sweep and 17th overall 3-0 win on the year. UTEP closes the season with a record of 10-7.

UTEP would score the day’s opening point before the Hilltoppers fired right back and would push out to a 10-6 lead. A Kayland Jackson kill sparked a 6-0 Hilltopper run to give the Tops a 17-9 lead. The Miners pulled back within five at 18-13 before the Red and White closed things with a 7-0 run off the serve of Logan Kael. Paige Briggs tallied three-straight kills during that stretch while Nadia Dieudonne added two of her own.

WKU struck first in set two and after UTEP tied things up at 2-2, Avri Davis struck for a kill to give the Hilltoppers the lead for good in the frame. WKU would push out to a 9-2 lead thanks to a 7-0 run off the serve of Hallie Shelton. The Red and White kept their foot on the gas and claimed a 16-7 lead before closing the set on a 9-1 run for the 25-9 victory. WKU held the Miners to a .037 hitting percentage and just five kills while the Tops operated at a .481 mark with a match-best 16 kills.

In the second frame, WKU held UTEP to single digits with a 25-9 victory. That marked the first time all season the Miners were held below 10 on the scoreboard. The Hilltoppers have now held seven different teams to a total of eight sets of single-digit scoring.

The Miners scored the first point of the third frame and claimed a 7-3 lead to get started. From there, Briggs struck for a kill to open a 7-0 scoring run by the Hilltoppers to push WKU into double digits with a 10-7 advantage. Following a UTEP timeout, the run continued and would ultimately grow to 13-0 for a 17-7 lead behind the serving of Dieudonne. Kills by Lauren Matthews gave the Tops leads of 20-9, 23-10, and 25-11 – to secure the match.

Briggs (11 kills, .579%), Matthews (10 kills, .471%), Jackson (nine kills, .533%), and Katie Isenbarger (six kills, .545%) all worked at a .471 or better hitting percentage on the match as WKU operated at a collective .487 mark on the day. Matthews led WKU with three blocks.

Logan Kael and Hood led WKU with seven digs apiece as the Hilltopper defense limited UTEP to just a .075 rate and 21 total kills.

Dieudonne finished with 35 assists, four kills, four digs, two blocks, and two aces on the contest. Overall, 60.3 percent of her sets found the floor for kills by her teammates.

WKU Volleyball will face No. 1 seed from the West Division, Rice, in Saturday’s noon CT Championship match. The Owls downed Charlotte in the C-USA Tournament Semifinals in straight sets.

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