WKU Volleyball wins the Conference USA Championship after sweeping New Mexico state
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - For the eighth time since joining the league a decade ago, the WKU Volleyball team won the Conference USA Tournament Championship, this time after beating New Mexico State 3-0 and clinching an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Hilltoppers, who also won the regular season title, have now won 17 of a possible 20 CUSA championships.
“This means so much to us because of how it came”, said head coach Travis Hudson. “So many different kids stepping up and making plays – the way it ended with Cam [Cameron] Mosley, a kid who’s had to grind her whole career and work extra every single day – to come in an get two huge extra points for us, it signifies what this team is about.”
The championship match was led under Abby Schaefer, Callie Bauer, Kaylee Cox, who earned All-Tournament status, along with Paige Briggs who was Tournament MVP. Briggs piled up 14 kills on offense, followed by fellow outside hitter Cox with 13. Bauer picked up her first double-double in over two months with a 35-assist, 11-dig showcase, as libero Schaefer hit double-digits from the back row as well.
WKU 3, NM State 0: 25-21, 25-16, 27-25
A overhit past the back line and a shot from outside hitter Paige Briggs would bring a quick 2-0 start for the Red and White in their 10th CUSA Volleyball Championship match. The Aggies would cut the lead down by taking two of their own, as well as, three straight capped by a shot from Kacia Brown to bring a two-point lead for the new CUSA members. Kaylee Cox would lead a 5-1 stretch for WKU, ending the scoring run on a Kelsey Brangers service ace – the first of the match for the Tops. NM State would bring about a 4-1 drive and take a one-point lead as the Tops and Aggies completed four lead changes and eight tied points. After back-and-forth rallies on the board, the Red and White got their largest break of the frame – a 5-0 run – featuring a kill from Logan Grevengoed and three kills off the hand of Briggs to take a demanding one-point lead, followed up by three straight for set point. Briggs takes a shot on the left side towards defenders’ hands as the ball falls out of bounds to wrap up the first set.
To start the second, WKU ran out instantly with a 5-1 drive that was capitalized by a shot from Kaylee Cox. Head coach Mike Jordan and the Aggies cut the momentum short with three straight points to bring themselves within one, later finding themselves tied with the Hilltoppers at nine apiece after a block stuffed by Alexandria Connatser and Kacia Brown. After a kill from Paige Briggs and Callie Bauer service ace gave WKU the lead back, NMSU took their first set lead from three straight points all from All-Tournament Team member, Starr Williams. Both teams traded points on the board, rallying up on the court until Cox kicked off a 5-0 run, forcing the Aggies to burn a timeout. The Tops took the show home, taking four more straight after NMSU reached point 16, ending on a block on the left side with Briggs and Gabby Weihe to take the match lead.
NM State took a strong 4-2 lead in the third set against the Hilltopper defense as the Tops climbed their way out to tie the frame from a cross-court kill from Kenadee Coyle and block from Logan Grevengoed and Callie Bauer. The match would later fall back-and-forth until the Hilltoppers ran on five straight including three Izzy Van De Wiele kills from the middle. The Aggies wouldn’t back down, as a 5-2 scoring run in favor of NM State would bring them within one. Outside hitter Kaylee Cox would start up four straight Hilltopper points, ending on Cameron Mosley’s first ace of the afternoon. NM State and WKU would trade points on the court, before the Aggies took in a 5-0 run giving them a one-point advantage. Cox would cut the run short from a kill down the middle, but not enough until the Aggies would reach set point as the Tops were down by two. Cox would pick up another kill from the assist by Bauer before defensive specialist Mosley would come in clutch with two perfectly placed serves for aces and give the Hilltoppers a chance at extra points in the set. Alexandria Connatser from NM State would fire off a shot to the Tops’ side of the court before Cox closed the match with a hard strike cross-court and an Aggie attacking error.
The Tops now wait for Selection Sunday next week to find out their place in the tournament.
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