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Steady Serve Receive Leads Tops to Sweep of UTEP & Third-Straight Championship Appearance

(WBKO)
Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 9:55 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - No. 18 WKU Volleyball swept its second C-USA Tournament match in as many days as the Hilltoppers downed UTEP – the second seed out of the west division – in Saturday’s semifinals from the ODU Volleyball Center. Lauren Matthews and Paige Briggs both tallied double-digit kills for the second-straight match while the offensive operated at a collective .341 hitting percentage.

WKU claimed the first two sets, 25-16 and 25-17 before the Miners looked to reverse sweep their third-straight match. UTEP led much of the third frame before the Hilltoppers closed the frame on a 7-3 run for the 25-23 win to secure the sweep.

“We just hung around with great passing in serve receive,” head coach Travis Hudson opened. “That was the only thing we were consistently doing well in that third set. UTEP couldn’t make long runs against us because we handled the ball so well in serve receive. So even though we were staring at a four- or five-point deficit, that turned into three and then two very slowly until we caught them around 20. It was because of very steady play in serve receive and a bunch of kids that have just won a lot of matches; a lot of big matches and they know how to play in these settings. They didn’t waiver and we found our way through in the end.”

No. 18 WKU Volleyball climbs to 26-1 on the season including 19-consecutive wins while UTEP falls to 21-7. The Hilltoppers are now 20-1 all-time in the Conference USA Tournament, including eight-straight wins in the postseason event.

WKU vs. UTEP – 25-16, 25-17, 25-23

Set 1

WKU scored the first point of the day and opened a quick 4-1 lead before UTEP battled right back to knot it at 5-5. The Miners would even take a brief 7-6 lead before WKU battled back and was the first to double digits at 10-9. The Hilltoppers took a 15-12 lead into the media timeout and out of the break, WKU struck for back-to-back kills to force a quick timeout by UTEP. The Miners fought back within three at 19-16 before WKU pushed ahead to a 23-18 lead to force another Miner stoppage. A 4-0 run would secure a 1-0 lead for WKU with a 25-18 set victory.

Set 2

The Hilltoppers struck first again in the second frame but UTEP countered for quick 3-1 and 7-5 leads. WKU responded with a 5-1 run to hit double digits first at 10-8 and force the Miners’ first timeout of the set. UTEP would take a brief 11-10 advantage before WKU worked to another 15-12 lead. Once the Tops pushed the margin to five at 19-14, UTEP called another stoppage but it wouldn’t matter as WKU closed the frame on a 6-3 run.

Set two saw eight ties and four lead changes before the Red and White got the final say with a 2-0 lead in the match.

Set 3

UTEP opened the scoring in set three and doubled up the Hilltoppers at 10-5. A big swing from Kayland Jackson pulled WKU within three at 12-9. The Miners pushed out to a 17-13 and 18-14 lead before WKU started to close the gap. UTEP called a timeout with its lead at two at 18-16 and would hit 20 first, up 20-17. The score would end up tied at 21-21 and 22-22. A kill from Matthews gave WKU the lead for good and Briggs followed with another for the 24-22 advantage. After a UTEP block made it a one-point set, Matthews closed the match with her 13th kill. WKU flipped the script on the final frame with an 11-5 run.

Nadia Dieudonne tallied 36 assists while leading WKU to its sixth-straight match hitting .325 or better.

Matthews’ 13 kills were a match high while she added a .524 hitting percentage and three blocks. Briggs tallied double-digit kills for the 13th time this season with her 10-kill outing. She added seven digs, two blocks and an ace in the win.

Logan Kael delivered her second double-digit dig showing of the weekend with 14 digs. She was also flawless in serve receive for WKU with no errors in 31 times targeted.

Jackson and Avri Davis both struck for six kills with Davis operating at a career-best .600 clip. Jackson and Katie Isenbarger both added three blocks apiece.

Four different Hilltoppers recorded an ace in the match. Ashley Hood tallied two while Briggs, Hallie Shelton and Isenbarger each chipped in one.

NEXT UP

With the win, WKU advances to Sunday’s championship match Rice for the third-straight season. First serve is slated for 10 a.m. CT from the ODU Volleyball Center and will be streamed on ESPN+. Action will also be live on ESPN 102.7 FM with Brett Williams on the call.

WKU will face Rice in the championship match for the fifth time since joining C-USA. Three of the four previous meetings have gone five sets but the Hilltoppers have gone 4-0 in those meetings. WKU owns a 12-7 record by set against Rice in those four meetings.

POST-MATCH NOTES

  • WKU used the lineup of Paige Briggs, Avri Davis, Lauren Matthews, Katie Isenbarger, Kayland Jackson, Nadia Dieudonne and Logan Kael at libero for the 11th time this season. This was the Hilltopper lineup to start the season and the group owns a 10-1 record.
  • WKU improves to 11-0 all-time against UTEP with Saturday’s win. The Miners have still yet to win a set against the Hilltoppers.
  • With the win, the Hilltoppers improve to 26-1 (12-0 C-USA) on the season.
  • WKU is now 20-1 all-time in the Conference USA Tournament. That record breaks down to 62-16 by set. The Hilltoppers have won their last eight C-USA Tournament matches.
  • Hallie Shelton struck for another ace to bring her career total to 183. She continues to close in on the program record of 206 held by Lindsey Gould.
  • With 13 kills on the day, Lauren Matthews moved into eighth on WKU’s career kills list and now owns 1,367.
  • Adding three blocks in the match, Katie Isenbarger became the 12th player in WKU Volleyball history to reach the 300-block milestone and currently sits at 1,002.
  • With the day’s results, head coach Travis Hudson is now 691-217 across his career.
  • WKU Volleyball is now up to an all-time program record of 969-492 with Saturday’s win.

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