The WKU volleyball team (9-1) extended its winning streak to five matches this past weekend, as the Lady Toppers won all three of their matches and were crowned champions of the Holiday Inn–University Plaza Invitational.
“What a weekend for our team,” head coach Travis Hudson said. “This was a high-quality tournament and these were three high-quality wins on our résumé. Hopefully we can continue to build moving forward.”
The tournament was the third WKU has played in this season, but it was the first tournament the Lady Toppers played in Diddle Arena in 2019.
WKU’s first matchup came against Bowling Green State University (5-5) on Friday morning.
The match was a close affair in each frame, as all three sets were decided by four points or less. But the Lady Toppers found ways to distance themselves from the Falcons, claiming the first three sets 25-22, 25-20 and 25-21 to claim a decisive victory.
Junior transfer Nadia Dieudonne had 43 assists, WKU found the floor for 47 kills and the Lady Toppers used a .248 hitting percentage to claim a clean 3-0 sweep.
“The defense really kept us in it and they were able to make it possible to run our offense,” Dieudonne said.
The Lady Toppers’ second match came against Ohio State (4-5) on Friday night.
WKU was tested early — both teams traded blows and went on small runs throughout the first set. But the Lady Toppers eventually pulled away and scored the last two points to claim the opening frame, 25-23.
The Lady Toppers had a more comfortable lead in the second set, leading the Buckeyes by as many as eight points on numerous occasions. WKU won the set 25-20.
OSU held a 24-23 lead over WKU in the third set, but sophomore Lauren Matthews recorded back-to-back kills to give the Lady Toppers the advantage late.
Freshman Paige Briggs closed the game with a kill for the Lady Toppers, sealing a 25-21 win in the third set and WKU’s second clean 3-0 sweep of the day.
“I think it makes it more exciting and more fun for us,” Matthews said about playing Power 5 teams. “They’re not expecting us to come how we come, so we’re like the underdog.”
WKU’s third and final match of the weekend came against Tulane (8-3) on Saturday.
The Lady Toppers’ match against the Green Wave was another hard-fought battle. WKU held the Green Wave to just six kills and showed staunch defense during the first set, as Tulane had a .059 hitting percentage. WKU took the opening set, 25-16.
Set two was a closer affair, but it still had the same result — WKU won 25-22 and held Tulane to a .171 hitting percentage compared to the Lady Toppers’ .351.
The third set saw the Lady Toppers lose their first frame of the tournament, 25-20. Tulane kept WKU to a .119 percentage, their lowest of the tournament.
Tulane also led late in the fourth set, but a run of points for the Lady Toppers gave WKU the lead and ultimately a 25-20 win in the frame. WKU then claimed the match, 3-1.
Matthews was named Tournament MVP, while junior Logan Kael joined her on the All-Tournament Team.
“I just give it [up] to my teammates,” Kael said. “I wouldn’t be where I am or play where I play without them, so without them I wouldn’t have had the performance that I had.”
Following an undefeated run through the Holiday Inn–University Plaza Invitational field, WKU will travel to Nashville to face Belmont (1-10) in an annual non-conference matchup on Tuesday.
With a few exceptions, the two schools have met yearly since 1997. WKU is currently undefeated against the Bruins, as the Lady Toppers own a 20-0 lead in the all-time series.
The Lady Toppers have defeated Belmont in clean 3-0 sweeps during each of the last five seasons. The last time the Bruins won a set against WKU was on Sept. 3, 2013. On that date, Belmont claimed the first set but dropped the next three to lose 3-1.
Belmont is currently on a seven-game losing streak, with their most recent loss coming against Jacksonville in the River City Rumble Tournament. Their only win this season was a clean 3-0 sweep against Alabama A&M on Sept. 3.
Game time from Curb Event Center is set for 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.