Hilltoppers roll through Jackson State, WKU advances to play Washington State

Sophomore Paige Briggs awaiting a Jackson State serve to be hit toward her team on April 14, 2021. Briggs finished the match with a team high 16 kills and nine digs. 

Cassady Lamb

WKU (22-0) took on Jackson State (11-1) Wednesday night in Omaha, Nebraska to kick off the Hilltoppers NCAA Volleyball Tournament play. This was the first time in program history these two teams have met.

The Hilltoppers swept Jackson State 3-0 in the first round of the tournament. WKU will now play No. 15 Washington State on Thursday at 9:30 p.m CST.

“Really excited to get a win under our belt in the NCAA Tournament,” head coach Travis Hudson said. “Those are such a prized possession for any team and program.”

Hudson is now 5-12 overall in the NCAA Tournament with WKU. 

Jackson State had the best opponent hitting percentage in the nation entering tonight’s match. Jackson State held opponents to hit .082 this season.

Sophomore outside hitter Paige Briggs hit 16 kills Wednesday night, maintaining a .682 hitting percentage. Senior setter Lauren Matthews saw 14 kills, hitting .478. Junior Katie Isenbarger hit eight kills and completed the match with a .889 hitting percentage. Senior setter Nadia Dieudonne assisted 31 points.

Shortly after WKU’s match began it was announced Conference USA foe Rice had a positive case on its program. The Owls season came to an end without any serves to play in the NCAA Tournament.

“That’s heartbreaking if I’m being honest,” Hudson said. “We’ve had some absolute wars over the past several years.”

Hudson said Rice is staying in the same hotel and told one of their staff members at breakfast ‘let’s get two for Conference USA today.’ 

{{tncms-inline account=”Matt Foster” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Breaking?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Breaking</a>: Rice vs. NC A&T has been declared a no contest because of positive COVID-19 test in the Rice program.First <a href="https://twitter.com/NCAAVolleyball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NCAAVolleyball</a> Tournament match affected by a positive test. <a href="https://twitter.com/KETV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KETV</a></p>— Matt Foster (@MattFosterKETV) <a href="https://twitter.com/MattFosterKETV/status/1382524611737354242?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 15, 2021</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/MattFosterKETV/status/1382524611737354242″ type=”twitter”}}

Set 1

Senior setter Lauren Matthews started off the match getting WKU’s first point with a block.

WKU went on a 4-0 scoring run including a kill by Matthews, two kills from Isenbarger and two JSU attack errors. WKU’s lead grew to 12-4.

The Lady Toppers achieved a 10-point lead after Paige Briggs hit WKU’s first ace of the match. The Tigers then called its first timeout of the match.

Isenbarger came out of the timeout with a kill. Briggs hit her second ace of the match causing WKU to see its largest run of the match so far, 6-0, putting the team up 23-8.

JSU was able to cut the run with a kill by sophomore Jylen Whitten, followed by the Tigers getting their 10th point of the night with a kill from freshman Alexis Williams. 

A kill from Isenbarger allowed WKU to get to set point at 24-11. Set point was played once more after a Hilltopper attack error. But WKU grabbed the set 25-12 in the next play after a kill by Matthews. Both Isenbarger and Matthews ended set one with five kills.

Set 2

The Tigers were able to find the first points of the set with a kill by Whitten and an ace from sophomore Damassy Thompson. A JSU service error allowed WKU’s first point of the set.

A kill by Matthews and two kills from Briggs pushed WKU’s lead to 5-3. Senior Hallie Shelton hit her first ace of the set, which was followed by back-to-back attack errors from JSU. This 5-0 scoring run was followed by a JSU timeout.

Briggs came swinging out of the timeout with two kills pushing the run up to 7-0 and bringing the Lady Toppers up 11-3. Two WKU errors stopped the run.  

Dieudonne hit her first ace of the night, WKU’s fifth, bringing the score to 14-6. 

An ace by senior Taylor Bebout led the Lady Toppers to a 10 points lead. A JSU timeout followed. At this point of the match, the Tigers held a hitting percentage of .056 compared to the Hilltoppers pulling a .364 hitting percentage.

After Shannon Keck had come in, WKU had put in every eligible player into the match. 

A kill by Isenbarger let set two to set point. Briggs finished off the set with a kill 25-16.

Set 3

A clean kill from Matthews began the third set as WKU got it’s first point. Then JSU then got its first point of the set due to a WKU service error. 

Shelton hit an ace immediately after her substitution onto the court. Shelton then hit another ace, her fourth of the match. WKU was able to go on a 3-0 run getting off to an 8-2 lead. 

A kill by Matthews and a block and kill by Briggs forced a JSU timeout. JSU was able to get a point following the timeout from a kill by Jordan Jones.

Briggs then saw her 12th kill of the match, pushing the Lady Toppers’ lead up to 12-5.

Two plays after her substitution in, Cameron Mosley hit her first service ace of the match, allowing WKU to see its first 10 point lead of set three.

Matthews’ 13th kill of the match led to a score of 21-11. Four kills in a row from Briggs assisted by Dieudonne brought set three two set point and also let the Lady Toppers see their third set win of the night. WKU won set three 25-12.

{{tncms-inline account=”WKU Volleyball” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">TOPS WIN!!We hold Jackson State to a .000 rate while hitting .393!Second Round, here we come! <a href="https://t.co/BTjh6vmv3O">pic.twitter.com/BTjh6vmv3O</a></p>— WKU Volleyball (@WKUVolleyball) <a href="https://twitter.com/WKUVolleyball/status/1382539255940005895?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 15, 2021</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/WKUVolleyball/status/1382539255940005895″ type=”twitter”}}

“Everything was kind of clicking with Nadia today, and our defense was on point,” Briggs said.

Isenbarger said the team wanted to come out here and play as clean as possible. She added that they had a good practice Tuesday and a good warm up Wednesday.

“I think what happened is exactly what we wanted to do,” Isenbarger said.

Up next WKU will face off against No. 15 seed Washington State tomorrow at 9:30 p.m. CST. The match will be available to stream on ESPN3.

Briggs said the team has to be aggressive, go for it and be smart with the ball tomorrow.

“Being undersized, that’s a fun game for me,” Briggs said.

Heading into the next match up with Washington State Isenbarger said despite their opponent being ranked her team is excited.

“Obviously they’re the seeded team so we kind of like feeling like the underdog in this situation because we don’t get a ton of opportunities to be the underdog,” Isenbarger said. “I think we’re just really excited, our mindset is just to go out and don’t leave anything out on the floor. Just swing away, play your heart out.”

Volleyball beat reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lambp0p.