WKU volleyball claims 900th all-time win, moves to 13-1 during historic week

WKU outside hitter Paige Briggs (1) serves during the WKU volleyball game against Samford in Diddle Arena Sept. 21, 2019.

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU volleyball team (13-1) extended its winning streak to nine games during the course of the last week, including a 3-0 sweep on the road in Nashville and a historic weekend for the program during the Lady Toppers’ dominant run through the WKU Volleyball Invitational.

“I said back in week one that I just want us to continue to get better and I haven’t been caught up in wins and losses or winning tournaments,” head coach Travis Hudson said. “This team is far from a finished project. For me, I’d rather lose and get better than win and backtrack a bit. I think we’ve been winning and getting better though, which is the best of both worlds.”

WKU traveled to Curb Event Center in Nashville to meet Belmont (1-14) on Sept. 17.

The Lady Toppers defeated the Bruins in a clean 3-0 sweep for the sixth year in a row, extending the program’s lead in the all-time series against Belmont to 21-0.

Freshman Paige Briggs had 15 kills and a .519 hitting percentage against the Bruins, while junior transfer Logan Kael led the WKU defense with 17 digs. The Lady Toppers held Belmont to a .155 hitting percentage on the night on their way to a stifling win in straight sets.

Following their non-conference road win at Belmont, the Lady Toppers returned to the Hill in preparation of an impending seven-match homestand.

The long string of matches in Diddle Arena began on Friday and Saturday, as Northern Kentucky (7-5), Tulsa (7-6) and Samford (6-4) all traveled to Bowling Green to participate in the two-day WKU Volleyball Invitational event.

The Lady Toppers’ first matchup of the tournament proved to be their toughest, as the team dropped just their third opening frame of the season to NKU on Friday morning.

It took WKU five sets against the Norse to pull out the win, but the Lady Toppers ultimately won the fifth set 15-9 and claimed a tough victory. Junior transfer Nadia Dieudonne was one kill shy of a triple-double, as she totaled nine kills, 45 assists and 17 digs in a 3-2 win.

Dieudonne also helped guide the WKU offense to a .180 clip with 63 kills on 189 attacks.

WKU’s second game against Tulsa came on Friday night. The team’s performance was night and day compared to their first outing, as the Lady Toppers had control for most of the game.

WKU hit .364 with 41 kills against just nine errors on 88 swings. Tulsa was held to 24 kills, 13 errors and 76 attacks for a .145 rate. The match saw just three ties and two lead changes.

The win was WKU’s 12th of the 2019 season, but the victory was also a historic win for the Lady Toppers — it marked the 900th all-time win in program history.

“Anytime something like that happens, it just makes me flip back through the rolodex of all the great kids I’ve had the opportunity to coach and what they’ve meant to this program,” Hudson said. “This is truly a program that was built by the players, and players of the past continue to have their fingerprints all over the success we have today. It’s something we’re very proud of and certainly embrace the opportunity to celebrate.”

Senior Sophia Cerino led the team with seven aces in the match. As of Sept. 23, Cerino is the Division I women’s volleyball leader in both service aces and aces per set with 42 and 1.02, respectively.

“It’s so cool,” Cerino said. “I believe I was a part of the 800th win as well, which was a really cool feeling. Just to be a part of a culture we have and getting used to having 20-win seasons. It’s really cool, we definitely have something special here and it’s really amazing to be a part of it.”

The team’s last victory of the tournament came against the Samford Bulldogs on Saturday.

WKU notched another 3-0 sweep, as the Lady Toppers posted a .356 hitting percentage while holding the Bulldogs to a .184 mark. The win was also historic — sophomore Lauren Matthews set WKU’s single-match hitting percentage record at .882 in the victory.

“I had no idea that was going to happen,” Matthews said. “I mean, who does? But it feels good.”

With the win, the Lady Toppers claimed victory in their third of four early season tournaments and moved to a perfect 7-0 on their home court in 2019.

Matthews was named WKU Volleyball Invite MVP — her second straight tournament MVP honor after also claiming the Holiday Inn–University Plaza Invitational MVP award last weekend — while Cerino joined her teammate on the All-Tournament team.

After an almost unblemished run through its regular season non-conference slate, WKU will play its last contest before Conference USA play against Austin Peay (2-11) on Tuesday.

The Lady Toppers lead the all-time series over APSU 31-12, but WKU fell 3-2 to the Governors on Oct. 16, 2018 in Clarksville, Tennessee. WKU’s loss in the last meeting between the two programs broke the Lady Toppers’ 14-game win streak against APSU dating back to 1997.

During its match against APSU a season ago, WKU battled back from a 2-1 deficit but dropped the fifth set 15-10 after the Governors went on a late 4-0 run in the decisive frame.

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

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