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Matthews, Hudson Combine for Three Superlatives; Six Hilltoppers Named All-Conference

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers middle hitter Lauren Matthews (5) Ohio State Buckeyes at WKU...
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers middle hitter Lauren Matthews (5) Ohio State Buckeyes at WKU Hilltoppers, September 13, 2019 at E.A. Diddle Arena(WBKO)
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 7:38 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - WKU Volleyball saw seven different Hilltoppers honored on Thursday as Conference USA announced its All-Conference teams, All-Freshman Team and superlative awards.

Lauren Matthews made league history in numerous ways as she became the first player to earn the Alyssa Cavanaugh Player of the Year award – renamed for the Hilltopper legend in June 2021 – while also being voted the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. Head coach Travis Hudson was tabbed the C-USA Coach of the Year. Matthews, Paige Briggs and Nadia Dieudonne all collected First Team All-Conference recognition for the third-consecutive season. Katie Isenbarger and Kayland Jackson both landed on the Second Team All-Conference Team while Katie Howard earned All-Freshman Team honors.

WKU C-USA AWARD BREAKDOWN

  • Matthews – Alyssa Cavanaugh Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, 1st Team All-Conference
  • Hudson – Coach of the Year
  • Briggs – 1st Team All-Conference
  • Dieudonne – 1st Team All-Conference
  • Isenbarger – 2nd Team All-Conference
  • Jackson – 2nd Team All-Conference
  • Howard – All-Freshman Team

Matthews is the first player in C-USA history to be named both the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. She was also the league’s Player of the Year following the 2019 campaign.

The NCAA’s hitting percentage leader, Matthews has worked at a .490 efficiency this season while striking for 367 kills and 106 total blocks this season for averages of 4.53 and 1.31 per set, respectively. The Indianapolis, Ind., native started all 81 sets for the Hilltoppers in the middle this season. She collected four of the league’s Offensive Player of the Week honors as well as a Defensive Player of the Week honor, marking the lone player in C-USA to achieve the feat this season. Matthews has tallied double-digit kills in 23 matches this season and has posted 20 or more in four outings.

Coach Hudson’s recognition marks his fourth Conference USA Coach of the Year honor in WKU’s eight seasons as a league member. He also earned the honor in 2015, ‘16 and ‘19. During the Sun Belt era, Hudson collected five more Coach of the Year accolades to bring his total to nine.

A fifth-year setter, Dieudonne has now three-straight First Team All-Conference honors after facilitating the second-best offense in the country to a .342 hitting percentage. Prior to transferring to WKU in 2019, the Louisville, Ky., native had never earned a collegiate award. The six-rotation setter started all 81 sets this season and averaged 11.22 assists per set, which leads C-USA and ranks seventh in NCAA Volleyball. Dieudonne racked up 909 assists, despite the Hilltoppers sweeping 19 of 25 matches this season. She’s added 1.79 digs per set, 36 blocks and 15 aces this season. Dieudonne earned 7-of-11 Setter of the Week honors this season, bringing her total to 18 in three seasons as a Hilltopper.

Collecting her third-straight honor as well, Briggs is hitting .279 on the year with 240 kills (2.96 per set) and 227 digs (2.80 per set). She added 30 blocks and 28 aces as well. Across 25 matches, Briggs tallied six double doubles. A primary passer for the Hilltoppers, the Ortonville, Mich., native recorded just 18 receive errors in 353 attempts for a 94.9 reception rate this season. The six-rotation outsider hitter was awarded Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week once and racked up 11 double-digit kill outings along with 10 double-digit dig efforts this season.

Isenbarger was named Second Team All-Conference for the second-consecutive season with Thursday’s awards. She’s appeared in 80 of 81 sets this season while operating at a .375 hitting percentage and averaging 1.03 blocks per set. Isenbarger, a native of Zionsville, Ind., racked up 130 kills this season with 1.63 kills per set to go along with 82 total blocks. From the service line, the senior middle hitter has struck for 10 aces and recorded 35 digs. She’s tallied 11 matches with a hitting clip of .400 or better entering the postseason.

For the first time in her career, Jackson landed All-Conference honors for her efforts across the 2021 campaign, earning Second Team recognition. The fifth-year rightside hitter played 80 of 81 sets this season, posting a .357 hitting percentage to go along with 51 blocks (0.64 per set). She recorded multiple blocks in 16 matches while racking up 182 kills and operating at a rate of .400 or better eleven times.

A true freshman that has been in the Hilltoppers’ starting lineup 16 times, Howard became WKU’s first All-Freshman team honoree since Briggs in 2019. The Bowling Green, Ky., native has appeared in 50 sets tallying 78 kills with an average of 1.56 kills per set this season. Hitting .251 overall, the outside hitter has also added 19 digs and 15 blocks for 88 points on her debut campaign.

Earlier this week, Isenbarger and Briggs were both named to Conference USA’s 11-player All-Academic Team. Briggs, a junior majoring in visual studies, has earned the recognition back-to-back seasons now while Isenbarger, a senior studying sport management, collected her first award.

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