WKU volleyball matches 3rd-best start in program history against MTSU

WKU sophomore Emma Kowalkowski (3) reaches for the ball during their game vs. Pittsburgh on Sept. 8, 2017 in E.A. Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers won 3-2.

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU volleyball team (16-1, 2-0 C-USA) defeated Middle Tennessee State (6-10, 0-2 C-USA) on Friday night, as the Lady Toppers extended their winning streak to 12 games with a 3-1 victory in Diddle Arena.

WKU’s 16-1 record matches the third-best start in program history, trailing an 18-1 opening in 2005 and a 17-1 start in 2011.

“I just hope this team is learning that it’s conference, and it’s a little different animal, and people are going to keep coming and make better adjustments,” head coach Travis Hudson said postgame. “All those things happened tonight, but we still found a way to win.”

WKU had control of the first set right from the beginning. The Lady Toppers were aggressive early with a 7-2 start before MTSU called timeout. The Blue Raiders couldn’t handle the serving job by the Lady Toppers early, as a lot of WKU’s points came off the serve. 

Freshman Paige Briggs went 4 for 4 on kills while sophomore Lauren Matthews went 5 for 6. WKU controlled MTSU defensively, outscoring the Blue Raiders 14-8 in kills.

WKU claimed the opening set, 25-15. 

MTSU came out in the second set with more fire, as the Blue Raiders jumped out to an early 9-4 lead by capitalizing on the early serving and attack errors committed by WKU.

As soon as the Lady Toppers started their 4-0 run of points, the Blue Raiders came right back and went on a 9-3 run to pull away and ultimately win the second set 25-19. WKU was outhit .333 to .125, while only having seven kills in the set compared to MTSU’s 14. 

Both teams came out in the third set trying to gain the upper hand, but they kept trading blows. Neither team had a lead greater than four points for most of the set until the Lady Toppers pulled away late. WKU ended on a 6-2 run and took the third set, 25-17.

Matthews ended with eight kills for WKU in the third set.

WKU jumped out to an early 9-1 lead in the fourth set before MTSU called timeout.

Just like the first set, WKU controlled the set right from the start. MTSU scored its first kill point of the set when the score was 20-9. All previous points were errors from WKU.

The Lady Toppers held MTSU to a -.222 hitting percentage in the last set, winning 25-12 and claiming the match by a 3-1 margin

Briggs had 12 kills and six digs during the evening. Matthews had 21 kills and Emma Kowalkowski ended the night with ten digs.

Senior Sophia Cerino — the Division I women’s volleyball leader in both service aces and aces per set as of Oct. 2 — tallied four service aces against MTSU and brought her season total to 50.

“We’re preparing for things that we know are coming,” Kowalkowski said. “We’re a young team, we’re gelling really well, we just have to keep the momentum going.” 

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will continue C-USA play on Sunday against Marshall (12-4, 3-0 C-USA).

WKU is currently on an eight-game winning streak against the Thundering Herd, and the Lady Toppers also own a 12-2 advantage in the all-time series dating back to Oct. 6, 1984.

Marshall is currently on a five-game winning streak of its own after defeating Charlotte (10-8, 1-2 C-USA) 3-1 on Friday night.

The Thundering Herd have only given up two sets to their opposition since losing 3-2 to Morehead State (11-3, 2-0 OVC) on Sept. 19.

WKU and Marshall will square off at noon on Sunday.

Reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.