WKU Volleyball: Tops continue hot streak, sweep MTSU in tournament opener
HOUSTON – No. 19 WKU Volleyball matched the longest win streak in program history as Friday’s Conference USA Tournament sweep of Middle Tennessee extended the Lady Toppers’ stretch to 25-consecutive matches. The top-seeded Red and White operated at a season-best .486 hitting percentage to take down the Blue Raiders for the third time this season.
“This was a really complete effort by our team,” head coach Travis Hudson opened. “In the first round of the tournament, there’s always jitters and that level of excitement and with us being such a young team, you don’t know what you’re going to get. There was a calm to our lockerroom before the match, and at that point I didn’t know if it was flat or locked in and certainly it appears it was locked in because we played really, really well today.”
With Friday afternoon’s victory, WKU improves to 29-1 on the 2019 campaign. The squad continues to lead the NCAA in victories (29), win percentage (.967) and sweeps (21).
“I think we came in ready to be challenged,” Nadia Dieudonne shared. “Being the first seed, we’re really expecting for everyone to play their best against us.”
Eighth-seeded Middle Tennessee made its first postseason appearance since the 2013 campaign – the last season prior to WKU joining Conference USA. The Blue Raiders closed the season with a 13-17 overall record.
“A big part of our offensive success today is this kid sitting to the right of me (Dieudonne),” Hudson continued. “Nadia is one of the best setters in the country in my opinion. We’re third in the nation in hitting percentage and she has her hands all over that. There are a lot of pieces that make that work; our first contact was really good, we have a lot of great ballhandlers. We had great balance as well, if you look at the statsheet, we were getting production from everywhere and those are three very critical components to playing offense at a high level and that’s what we did today.
WKU opened tournament action from Tudor Fieldhouse with a quick 5-0 lead thanks to a Lauren Matthews kill and the serving of Sophia Cerino. From there, WKU was the first to double digits with a 10-5 lead. The Lady Toppers worked ahead to a 17-12 advantage and would score eight of the final 10 points in the set for a final 25-14 margin of victory in the opening frame. WKU operated at a .556 hitting clip in the first set.
After the Blue Raiders opened the second frame with a 3-1 lead, WKU scored eight of the next nine points for a 9-5 lead and never looked back. Middle Tennessee pulled back with four at 17-13 but a Blue Raider service error followed by a Logan Kael run, pushed WKU out to a double-digit advantage at 24-13. Two points later, a Katie Isenbarger kill gave WKU anther 25-14 victory for a 2-0 lead in the match.
Out of the break, Matthews put WKU on the board first with a kill but Middle Tennessee would work out to a 9-7 lead. At that point, the Lady Toppers went on an 8-0 run, which extended to 11-1 to turn the tables and take a 18-10 lead in the final frame. During the Hallie Shelton serving run, the Lady Toppers notched seven kills and a block. Following MTSU’s final timeout at 18-10, the Blue Raiders tallied a kill but WKU kept its foot on the gas for a 25-15 third-set win.