Leading role: No. 23 WKU volleyball leads nation in wins and winning percentage

Western Kentucky University’s women volleyball player Sophia Cerino (23), a senior from Brentwood, Tenn., celebrates with teammate Nadia Dieudonne, a junior from Louisville, after winning the first set of four in their game against Middle Tennessee State University on Friday, October 5, 2019 in Diddle Arena. WKU took home the win after two more victorious sets, bringing the team to a 12-game winning streak.

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU volleyball team (23-1, 9-0 C-USA) defeated both Alabama-Birmingham (11-10, 3-5 C-USA) and Charlotte (13-12, 2-6 C-USA) in straight sets over the weekend, as the Lady Toppers tacked on two more 3-0 wins to reach an NCAA-best 17 sweeps this season.

WKU, ranked 23rd, leads the nation in wins at 23, winning percentage at .958 and is tied for the nation’s longest winning streak at 19 straight matches. The Lady Toppers have continued to add upon the best start in program history, collecting more accolades with each passing week.

The Lady Toppers posted their season-best hitting percentage against the Blazers in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday night.

WKU hit .458 overall and kept an opponent to under .100 for the fourth straight match, as UAB posted a .043 overall mark. WKU didn’t give up more than 16 points in any set and held the Blazers to as low as 12 on its way to taking a 3-0 win.

“We were very good tonight in all phases of the game,” head coach Travis Hudson said in a release. “Our serving really set the tone of the match and had UAB out of sync. I’m very proud of our effort.”

WKU stayed on the road for its next outing — a tough test against the 49ers and their 7-2 home record in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday afternoon.

WKU had a hitting percentage of .315 while keeping the 49ers to a .189. Junior transfer Nadia Dieudonne matched the 2019 NCAA three-set match record with 49 assists. The Lady Toppers totaled 50 kills to Charlotte’s 30, snatching their second sweep of the weekend.

“I didn’t feel like we were very locked in today which is tough on the back end of a C-USA road trip,” Hudson said in a release. “We found a way to grind out the win though. Charlotte is always a tough, well-coached opponent and today was no different. We’re glad to get the win.”

After defeating both UAB and Charlotte 3-0, WKU has won five straight games in sweeps.

On the weekend, sophomore Lauren Matthews finished with 29 kills and five blocks. Junior transfer Logan Kael ended both games with double-digit digs, totaling 30.

Freshman Paige Briggs earned her 11th double-double of the season after having 15 kills and 12 digs against Charlotte, while Dieudonne totalled 77 assists and 12 digs.

Following another dominant weekend, WKU will return home for a one-game pit stop in Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers will take on Texas-El Paso for the only time in 2019 this weekend.

UTEP is currently 10-11 on the season and 3-5 against Conference USA opponents this season. The Miners are coming off a clean 3-0 sweep against Marshall on Friday.

The Miners have won three of their last four matches, only giving up one set in their three wins.

The two teams have a short list of matches in the all-time series, but WKU has owned the series since its first game against UTEP in 2014. The Lady Toppers are 8-0 all-time against the Miners, and they’ve won every single set in their eight wins.

UTEP is ranked 10th in the conference in hitting percentage, 12th in assists and 12th in kills. The Miners are also ranked 10th in opponent hitting percentage, but they’re third in blocks.

Game time on Friday is set for 6 p.m. in Diddle Arena.

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