WKU volleyball sweeps AVCA South Region superlatives

WKU head volleyball coach Travis Hudson waves to a record-breaking crowd following the Lady Toppers’ NCAA Volleyball Tournament Second Round match against Louisville in Diddle Arena on Dec. 6, 2019. The Lady Toppers fell to the visiting Cardinals, 3-2.

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU volleyball team already had an NCAA-best 23 sweeps during the 2019 season, but the Lady Toppers added one more sweep to their impressive résumé when the program received six combined All-Region honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association on Tuesday morning.

Head coach Travis Hudson was named the AVCA’s South Region Coach of the Year, while sophomore Lauren Matthews was voted Region Player of the Year and freshman Paige Briggs received a Freshman of the Year nod.

Briggs, Matthews and junior transfer Nadia Dieudonne were all named to the AVCA’s South All-Region Team.

The trio also earned First Team All-Conference from Conference USA and received Freshman of the Year, Player of the Year and Setter of the Year, respectively.

“What a really nice ending to a really special season,” Hudson said in a release. “Paige [Briggs], Nadia [Dieudonne] and Lauren [Matthews] are certainly deserving with the seasons they put up. I think this is another statement to the overall accomplishments of this group from top to bottom and I’m really proud to see our program recognized at this level.”

WKU is just the fourth team to sweep all three All-Region superlatives. Kentucky accomplished the feat in 2017, while BYU and Minnesota did so in 2018.

“The firsts just seem to keep coming with this group,” Hudson said in a release. “I will just reiterate what I’ve said many times, the success of this group has not been accidental. They worked incredibly hard and purposeful in becoming who they’ve become, both Paige and Lauren as individuals, as well as our team as a whole. They make me proud to be the head coach of such a together, hard-working group of kids.”

Hudson collected the AVCA South Region Coach of the Year for the sixth time of his career after he picked up his third C-USA Coach of the Year accolade in six seasons.

Hudson led WKU to a 28-1 regular season record and a perfect 14-0 record in league play after the team was predicted to finish third in the C-USA preseason poll. The Lady Toppers also won their fifth C-USA championship in six years.

Hudson’s 2019 team, his first unit that didn’t contain an All-American since 2009, earned the No. 15 national seed, hosted the NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds and closed the year with a .941 winning percentage, which was the best in program history.

“I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again, I’m just so appreciative to our players for the ride that they took me on this year,” Hudson said in a release. “I can sit back and recognize what an unbelievable accomplishment this season was on so many levels but when that many good things happen across the board, it’s certainly a testament to each and every kid in that locker room as well as every coach and person on our staff and I just happen to be the point person of all of that. It’s something that I hope that everyone throughout our program takes a lot of pride in because that’s certainly how it got accomplished.”

Briggs started all 118 sets for the Lady Toppers this season as a six-rotation player and racked up 388 kills and 344 digs across the season while working at a .281 hitting percentage.

WKU’s third-ever AVCA South Region Freshman of the Year, Briggs also earned a spot on C-USA’s All-Tournament Team.

Dieudonne earned half of C-USA’s Setter of the Week awards with six honors. She led the squad to a collective .301 hitting percentage on the season, which ranks second in all of NCAA.

She registered 1,296 assists along with 270 digs, 95 kills and 41 block assists, all of which are career highs for the junior. The Louisville native averaged 10.98 assists per set overall, which climbs to 11.28 per set in C-USA matches.

Matthews was selected as the AVCA South Region Player of the Year after she spent nearly two months leading all of NCAA volleyball in hitting percentage and ranks first with a .448 clip, which ranks second on WKUs’ single-season list.

Throughout the course of the season, Matthews set WKU’s single-match hitting percentage record at .882. She owns 36 solo blocks (fifth on WKU’s single season list) and 103 block assists (eighth on WKU’s single season list).

Matthews joins WKU legend Alyssa Cavanaugh as the only Lady Toppers to earn Region Player of the Year recognition.

WKU has now seen a Lady Topper earn AVCA All-Region recognition each of the last 10 seasons. All three of this year’s honorees are collecting their first AVCA postseason honors and bring WKU’s program total to 35 with 30 First Team selections.

The Lady Topper volleyball program is currently slated to return its entire 2019 roster with the exception of its two graduating seniors, Sophia Cerino and Emma Kowalkowski.

Reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at [email protected] Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.