Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- WKU Volleyball continued its tear on Sunday, sweeping the visiting Thundering Herd to extend the Tops’ win streak to 13th-consecutive matches on the season. The victory also marked WKU’s NCAA-best 12th sweep of the season.
"We really talked about just kind of returning to who we are, playing with energy, and having fun playing the game, doing all those kinds of things,” head coach Travis Hudson shared following the win. “It really showed today. We played with great energy throughout the match, but we also executed at a really high level. We have won a lot of matches this year being carried by two or three separate phases of the game, and today we were truly clicking on all cylinders. We played really well in every phase of the game, and it showed in the result."
WKU’s 17-1 record matches the second-best start in program history, which came during the 2011 campaign. The only season with more wins before the squad’s second loss was 2005, when WKU opened the year 18-1.
"They've been that special to coach to me all year, just because they're so much fun,” Hudson said of how special of a team the 2019 squad has turned out to be. “They just keep learning and growing and getting better. The record is a bi-product, it didn't really dawn on me until you said it, but we're a hard team to beat. We're vulnerable in some areas, but we do a lot of things well, and so when we're at the top of our game, it is going to take a really good team to beat us. We have some of those coming up on our schedule, and we know the challenge is going to be great, but it sure is enjoyable everyday with them."
The Lady Toppers are now 3-0 in Conference USA play and ended the Thundering Herd’s five-match win streak. Marshall fell to 12-5 on the season and 3-1 in league play with the loss.
First-set action from The Hill saw zero ties or lead changes as WKU took a 7-0 lead and never looked back. Marshall called for a timeout trailing 7-0 but WKU would cruise to a 25-13 win as Lauren Matthews found the floor on six of her eight swings and WKU hit .286 as a team while holding the Thundering Herd to just four kills and a -.143 hitting clip in the frame.
Set two would be more of the same, but saw two ties and two lead changes all occurring within the first seven points of the frame. Marshall cut the lead to 14-10, but that was as close as it would get as WKU responded with a 7-1 run to push the score out to 21-11. The Lady Tops would take the set 25-14 for a 2-0 set lead. Matthews added five kills on eight attempts and WKU hit a blistering .619 as a team.
Out of the break, the sides battled back and forth before the Red and White went on a 10-2 run to open up a 13-5 advantage. The Thundering Herd would not pull back within five the rest of the set as WKU closed the frame out to win the match 25-18 and secure another 3-0 sweep.
As a team, WKU hit .378 while holding Marshall to a .057 clip. This marks the second time during the 2019 campaign that the Red and White has held an opponent to a hitting percentage below .100. The first victim was Tennessee Tech on Sept. 7.
Matthews racked up 17 kills on 28 errorless swings from the middle for a .607 hitting percentage. The sophomore has now operated above a .600 offensive efficiency in all three C-USA matchups and in six matches on the season. Briggs joined her in double digits with 10 on a .364 clip to go along with her 10 digs to mark her ninth double-double outing of the season.
The Lady Toppers rattled off 47 kills while limiting Marshall to just 23, including a mere four in the first frame. Defensively, the Tops racked up 45 digs, led by Briggs’ 10. Logan Kael and Hallie Shelton each added nine while Emma Kowalkowski recorded seven digs.
WKU out-blocked the Thundering Herd – C-USA’s top blocking squad entering the match – by a 6-4 margin. Katie Isenbarger led everyone with four blocks to bring her career total to 101 total stuffs. Nadia Dieudonne added a trio of blocks while Matthews posted two more.
From the service line, WKU saw five different players register an ace as the squad tallied seven. Briggs and Ashley Hood recorded two each, while the Tops’ defensive effort allowed Marshall just one on the day.
PAIGE BRIGGS’ KICK KILL: VIDEO
“Twenty-five years in and I have never seen that before,” added Hudson. “Paige kicked the first contact, so she had a kick dig, and then Logan Kael, it hit off her thigh, so she had a thigh assist, and then it was still low to the ground, and just reactionarily, Paige kicks it over the net for the kill, and so it really kind of signified it was our day. A lot of things went well for us today, and that certainly was a fun play."
NEXT TIME OUT:
After a month of playing in Diddle Arena while racking up a perfect 11-0 record at home, WKU Volleyball will hit the road for its next three matches. Next weekend, WKU will visit the Sunshine State, opening the trip at Florida Atlantic Friday before heading down the road to FIU for a Sunday tilt.