Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- No. 19 WKU Volleyball sent its seniors out on top in potentially their last-ever match inside Diddle Arena as the squad swept UAB to clinch the Conference USA outright regular-season championship. The Lady Toppers conclude the regular season with a 28-1 overall record and a perfect 14-0 mark in C-USA.
“What a great day, what a great day in Diddle Arena,” head coach Travis Hudson shared. “Again, thank you to our fan base for coming out and making it a special environment for our kids. Just so many wonderful things today, sending these two seniors off the right way, winning a championship, finishing undefeated in Diddle Arena for the year. There are not enough words to tell you how proud I am of these two kids and their teammates. It only has a small bit to do with what they’ve done on the court. They’ve won because of everything they’ve done off the court and I’m just really, really proud that they’re having this moment.”
With its perfect 14-0 record throughout the regular season, WKU posted the fifth undefeated conference regular season record in program history. Two of those perfect records have come in the Conference USA era with the second season being the 2016 campaign. Only one other team in league history had posted an unbeaten regular season prior – Louisville went 13-0 in 2004.
UAB concluded the 2019 campaign with a 12-15 overall record and a 4-10 mark in C-USA.
The Blazers came ready to battle in their final match of the season and ultimately forced 17 ties and 10 lead changes in WKU’s NCAA-best 20th sweep of the season. UAB owned a lead at some point in each of the three sets, but a stout defensive effort by the Lady Toppers secured the program’s 16th all-time regular season title.
WKU’s defense delivered one of its best showings of the season, holding UAB to a .000 hitting clip on the day – the lowest mark a Lady Topper opponent has been held to this season.
Three Lady Toppers finished with double-digit digs including Paige Briggs (13), Logan Kael (11) and Nadia Dieudonne (10). As a unit, WKU out-dug UAB by a 53-38 margin while doubling up the Blazers in blocks, 10-5. Katie Isenbarger matched her career-high with seven stuffs on the day. Sophia Cerino added four, Briggs owned three and Dieudonne and Lauren Matthews each had two.
Dieudonne posted her seventh double-double of the season with 24 assists and 10 digs.
Matthews led the Hilltopper offense with 11 kills on .429 hitting. Kayland Jackson added six kills while working at a .385 clip. WKU was limited to a .205 offensive clip on the day by the Blazers.
From the service line, Cerino added four more aces to bring her regular-season total to 73 and her senior week total to 10.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen me at all but I’m holding back tears because I’m just so grateful,” Cerino shared. “Emotions are running high today for me with just a lot of gratitude. I’m super thankful for this team, for this program, for Western, for Hilltopper nation, for everything that this place is about and for everything this program and this team is about. I’m trying to hold back tears but I’m just super grateful to be a part of it all and that’s just kind of coming together today for me emotionally, so I just love it here.”
Fellow senior Emma Kowalkowski registered six digs and numerous top-10 worthy saves and now sits just 11 digs shy of 1,000 on her career.
“I think I’m most proud of our comeback from last year,” Kowalkowski added. “Sophia and I, as well as the entire team, put a lot of work in back in the spring and offseason, trying to go back to our culture and who we are as a team and I’m really proud of us, personally, and of the entire team for regaining that status.”
NEXT TIME OUT:
With the regular season concluded, WKU Volleyball turns its sights to the Conference USA Tournament. Action is slated for Friday-Saturday, Nov. 22-24 from Houston, Texas. WKU will be the No. 1 seed at the Rice-hosted event.
HUDSON ON THE SENIORS:
“One of the things that I love about this match, Senior Day, there’s no way around it, there’s a lot of emotion involved. You start reflecting on everything they’ve been through, these two kids walked in the doors just high school kids, wondering who they were and wondering a lot of things. To watch them grow and develop and certainly the champions on the court they are but even the young women they are off the court is what keeps me doing this. I enjoy these days, I enjoy winning championships but it’s not my favorite part of my job.”