Lady Toppers return to play, sweep UAB in first regular season matchup

WKU Volleyball’s Kate Isenbarger (20) celebrates a block with her teammates to add to the Hilltoppers lead in the set Nov. 7, 2020.

Nick Kieser

The Lady Topper volleyball program took to the floor for its lone regular season matchup of the fall on Nov. 7 against Alabama-Birmingham. The match was closed to the general public but family members were admitted to attend.

It had been 337 days since the last match for the Lady Toppers and the team came out with a clean sweep over the Blazers. This counted toward the Lady Toppers 2020-21 regular season record to open up play.

“I can’t say enough good things about what Todd Stewart and our administration has done to get us to the point where we could actually compete and play,” head coach Travis Hudson said. “It means so much to our kids.”

WKU went through the Blazers on Saturday with 46 kills compared to UAB’s 29. The Lady Toppers were led by junior Lauren Matthews who had 14 kills.

“For me personally, I didn’t feel like I played like the stats showed, otherwise, but I know I can do better and limit my errors and just little things that you guys may not see, so I have a lot to improve on,” Matthews said

Sophomore Paige Briggs was also a contributing factor in the win with 11 digs in the matchup against UAB. Briggs was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year last season and looks poised for a spring season.

“It felt great to be back there and playing with teammates, staying together and feeling like all of this practice has finally amounted to something,” Briggs said. “It didn’t really matter the competition. I was just happy to play and be out there.”

Hudson tweeted out Sunday evening that it was a “great win in our one and only match this fall. So good to be back in Diddle and see our kids compete. My first undefeated fall season in my career.”

Aside from outscoring UAB 75-55 in the sweep the Hilltoppers also played in an exhibition match against Middle Tennessee State University. WKU claimed their 2-0 record on the day defeating the Blue Raiders 78-54 in total points scored.

Junior Katie Isenbarger finished the second match of the day with 11 kills, second most on the team compared to Briggs’ 13 against MTSU.

“As far as how we played it is exactly what I thought it would be,” Hudson said. “It was rough around the edges at times, but to be honest we actually played pretty clean volleyball through the first two sets.”

The Lady Toppers also combined for four aces versus the Blazers. Senior Nadia Dieudonne and junior Ashley Hood had two apiece, with the duo contributing to a dominant performance on serves.

Sophomore Avri Davis returned to the court following an injury in her freshman campaign and finished the UAB match with six kills and two blocks.

“I was super nervous on the court, but now it’s kind of 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.

The non-conference schedule for the Lady Toppers has yet to be finalized for the 2020-21 spring season, and the plans to play in the spring remain unless restructured by C-USA.

“I feel good about it,” Hudson said. “I have a great confidence that A, Todd Stewart and our administration will do everything in their power to make it happen, and B, all the great people that work around this athletic department are going to do whatever they can to give these kids an experience.”

WKU will have time from here on out to prepare for the spring season, and Hudson and his staff are ready for the opportunity to compete in the ensuing season on the Hill.

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.