WKU Volleyball Sweeps UAB in Season-Opener
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Over 11 months after their final match of the 2019 season and a canceled 2020 season-opening match, WKU Volleyball finally got its season underway a 3-0 sweep of UAB. The Hilltoppers worked at a .351 hitting clip while holding the Blazers to a .182 average.
“It sure is nice to be back out there playing,” head coach Travis Hudson opened. “We’re really happy for this opportunity and can’t say enough good things about what Todd Stewart and our administration has done to get us to the point that we could actually compete and play. It means so much to our kids. It’s absolutely something that will make us better moving forward.”
WKU will carry its 1-0 record into the spring campaign. The match was also the season-opener for UAB as the Blazers are now 0-1.
UAB owned just one lead in the match went it opened the day with a quick 2-0 lead on the Red and White. After five ties, with the last at 6-6, a Kayland Jackson kill gave the Tops the lead and they would never trail again. WKU would push ahead to a 23-13 lead with a Katie Isenbarger kill before Nadia Dieudonne would close the set with an ace a few points later at 25-14. In the first frame, WKU racked up 12 kills, five blocks and two aces.
Second set action saw WKU jump out to a quick 5-0 lead, a run that included Ashley Hood’s second ace of the match. She also registered an ace in the opening frame on her first serve of the season. WKU pushed out to a 10-4 advantage and another Dieudonne ace would make the lead 20-14 and force a UAB timeout. The Blazers would score three of the next four points out of the break before three-straight Avri Davis kills would give WKU a 24-17 advantage. After a UAB kill, Davis would close the set with her fifth kill of the frame.
Matthews opened the third and final frame with back-to-back kills before a UAB attack error would give the Hilltoppers a 3-0 lead. WKU would against hit double-digits with a 10-4 lead over the Blazers thanks to a block by Katie Isenbarger and Paige Briggs. UAB opted for a timeout trailing 16-9 and would begin closing the gap out of the stoppage. The Blazers powered all the way back to trail by just one at 23-22 before Matthews struck for kills on two of the last three points to secure the season-opening victory for WKU Volleyball.
“As far as how we played, it was exactly how I thought it would be,” Hudson continued. “It was rough around the edges at times but to be honest, we actually played pretty clean volleyball through two sets. Overall just happy for our players to have the opportunity.”
“I loved how we stayed together and even though we were struggling in the third set we still maintained that level of energy and we didn’t let up so we kept our foot on the gas the whole time and that was the really exciting part because that’s really important to maintain throughout the season next year,” Matthews added.
Matthews led WKU with 14 kills and a .571 hitting percentage in the victory. She would finish with five blocks assists and a dig as well.
“There are things [Lauren] does out there that are not things that you teach,” Hudson said of the junior. “I’d love to sit here and tell you that she is who she is because of the coach she has, but it’s just simply not true. She is a gifted kid and she has worked really hard.”
Briggs also recorded double-digit kills with 11 on 22 errorless swings for a .500 attack clip. The sophomore coupled that with 11 digs for her first double-double outing of the season and 16th of her career.
“It felt great to be back there and playing with our teammates, staying together and feeling like all this practice has amounted to something,” Briggs shared of the opportunity to play a match.
Dieudonne facilitated the Hilltopper offense to a .351 hitting percentage with 39 assists, six digs, two blocks and a kill. Davis made her first start in the Red and White and would finish with six kills, two digs and two blocks.
“I was super nervous on the court [about starting] but now it’s washed over and I feel more calm and I think we all did pretty well for playing our first match of the season,” Davis said about her first start and being back in action.