Top of their game: WKU volleyball wins 2-of-3 matches in tournament

Head Coach Travis Hudson directs his players during the Lady Toppers’ win over UTSA on Oct. 9 at Diddle Arena. Abbey Tanner/HERALD

Kaden Gaylord

The WKU volleyball team (5-1) suffered its first loss of the season this past weekend, but the Lady Toppers still managed to come out with a winning record at the Fleur De Lis Tournament after the team claimed two of its three matches in Louisville.

“We have a lot of work to do moving forward, but I’m looking forward to it with this group,” head coach Travis Hudson said in a postgame press release. “I’m proud of our weekend overall and looking forward to being back in Diddle Arena.”

Facing the first of two Power 5 opponents on their weekend slate, the Lady Toppers defeated Arizona State 3-1 on Friday morning. WKU lost the first set but managed to win the next three straight to claim the four-set victory. The WKU win also gave the Sun Devils (4-2) their first loss of the season at that point.

Junior Nadia Dieudonne recorded her second double-double showing of the season with 39 assists and 17 digs. Senior Sophia Cerino served eight aces, one shy of the WKU single-match record shared by Cindy Hudson (1991) and Beaven Hill (2000).

The Lady Toppers put up a valiant effort against No. 24 Louisville (5-1) in their second contest of the day on Friday, but WKU ultimately fell 3-1 to the tournament’s host team.

The defeat handed then-undefeated WKU its first loss of the year and also extended the program’s losing streak against the Cardinals in the all-time series to 0-17.

Sophomore Lauren Matthews had 13 kills, while freshman Paige Briggs added 11 kills and 10 digs for her third double-double showing of the season for the Lady Toppers.

With the heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Louisville, WKU moved to 11- 10 overall against Power 5 opponents since joining Conference USA.

“Today was a disappointing day from an execution standpoint, but we can’t fault our kids’ effort,” Hudson said in a release. “They are playing very hard, and we just have to execute at a higher level and that is my job to get that done. I love this group of kids and they will continue to get better and better.”

WKU’s third matchup of the weekend came against Tennessee Tech (0-6) on Saturday afternoon. The Lady Toppers picked up their fifth win of the season by sweeping the Golden Eagles 3-0 — WKU’s third win on a clean 3-0 sweep so far this season.

The Lady Topper defense limited Tennessee Tech to a .065 rate and just 26 kills. The last time WKU limited an opponent to a hitting clip below .100 was against East Tennessee State on Sept. 14, 2018, when WKU held ETSU to a .067 rate.

Matthews was named to the All-Tournament Team after racking up 34 kills, 17 blocks and a .356 hitting percentage in WKU’s three weekend matches.

In the six games the Lady Toppers have played so far this season, WKU has outperformed most of its opponents in every statistical category. The team averages 12.8 kills per set, while the Lady Toppers’ opponents have averaged 11.3.

WKU also has 269 assists compared to 238 for its opponents, averaging out to 12.2 per set for the Lady Toppers and 10.8 per set for their opposition. The Lady Toppers have been superior defensively, as well, with 336 digs compared to 302 digs by their opponents. Size has also played a role in WKU’s success, as the team has tallied 47.0 blocks compared to 34.5 from its opponents.

WKU’s next outing will be their first home match of the season against in-state foe Eastern Kentucky. The two teams haven’t met since a 3-0 WKU victory in 1998.

The all-time series has a one game difference, with the Lady Toppers up 8-7. WKU has defeated EKU in each of the last three matches between the two schools.

The Colonels (3-3) won two of their three games in the UNC Asheville Tournament over the weekend. EKU’s victories came against Dartmouth College and North Carolina A&T State University — both wins were clean 3-0 sweeps for the Colonels.

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

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