WKU falls to Ole Miss 3-1 in heartbreaker


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

WKU Hilltoppers break before their volleyball game against the Ole Miss Rebels on the evening of Sept. 10, 2021, at Diddle Arena. WKU lost 3-1.

Cassady Lamb, Volleyball reporter

No. 15 ranked WKU took on Ole Miss on Friday night in the Hilltoppers’ second match of the Holiday Inn – University Plaza Invitational. WKU lost to Ole Miss 3-1, the program’s first regular-season loss since Sept. 6, 2019, breaking a streak of 54 wins.

“We walked in here knowing how good they were,” head coach Travis Hudson said after the match. “And we walked in here knowing what they were going to do. We just didn’t have answers for it tonight.” 

“Travis always says it’s never failure, it’s feedback,” senior defensive specialist Ashley Hood said. “So I think that this could be really good feedback for us and [to] just really execute tomorrow.”

Junior outside hitter Paige Briggs contributed the most points for the Hilltoppers with 13.5 points and 12 kills along with a .265 hitting percentage. Senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews put up 11.5 points for her team along with nine kills. 

Junior outside hitter Avri Davis brought in 10 points, nine of which were kills. Fifth-year right side Kayland Jackson hit nine kills and brought in 11 points for WKU.

Set 1 – Ole Miss 25, WKU 23

The first set of Friday evening began with two kills and a block by Matthews. Ole Miss was able to put its first point on the scoreboard after a kill by Sasha Ratliff. 

Ole Miss went on a 4-0 scoring run, allowing the Rebels to jump ahead 6-4. WKU was first to get to double-digits (10-9) following a kill by senior middle hitter Katie Isenbarger. 

Both teams’ coaches challenged two plays before either team met the 15th point mark. Both challenges were won in favor of the teams who presented them. 

WKU was able to take a three-point lead, 18-15, which pushed Ole Miss to call the first timeout of the match. The Rebels gained a point coming out of the timeout with a kill from Payton Brgoch, and a kill by Briggs followed. 

A long-fought play led to a knotted score of 19-19. Three more tied scores followed, and Ole Miss was allowed a two-point lead at set point 24-22. This advantage was followed by Coach Hudson calling the team’s first timeout of the night. 

An Ole Miss attack error followed after the timeout. Ole Miss head coach Kayla Banwarth challenged the call, but the challenge failed. The Rebels claimed the first set 25-23 after a kill by Kylee McLaughlin. 

Set 2 – Ole Miss 25, WKU 20

A WKU point began the second set following a Rebel service error. Matthews hit the first kill of the set, giving the Hilltoppers their third point. 

WKU called the first timeout of the second set after a kill by Ole Miss’ Anna Bair pushed the Rebels up 8-5. Bair hit another kill following the timeout. In the following plays, Isenbarger hit her second kill of the night and Davis notched her fourth and fifth, bringing the score to 9-8. 

Dieudonne then saw her first kill of the night, which was followed by an Ole Miss attack error, knotting up the score 10-10. 

A 3-0 Ole Miss scoring run, allowing the Rebels to take an 18-14 lead, was followed by another WKU timeout. A kill by Briggs let WKU get a point in the play after the break and a kill by Jackson and a block by both Jackson and Isenbarger shortened Ole Miss’ lead to two points. 

Freshman outside hitter Katie Howard achieved her first point of the match on a kill bringing the score to 22-18, WKU trailing by four. A kill by Matthews led Ole Miss to call a timeout at 23-20. 

“I threw [Howard] in there and she went up and took a big swing for us,” Hudson said. “I liked  what she did.”

A kill by Rebel GG Carvacho and an ace by Kylee McLaughlin allowed Ole Miss to claim the second set 25-20. 

Set 3 – WKU 25, Ole Miss 22

Set three began with a kill by Carvacho that the Hilltoppers mistook as an out-of-bounds ball. Rebel Sam Burgio then hit an ace. A kill by Briggs brought in WKUs first point on the scoreboard. 

Ole Miss saw a 7-4 lead early on in set three. The lead was shortened after the Rebels hit back-to-back out-of-bounds balls. The score was knotted up 8-8 after two more Rebel attack errors. 

A kill by Matthews, her sixth of the night, pushed WKU into the lead 9-8. This play was continued by Ole Miss calling its first timeout of set three. Two ties followed the timeout, but Ole Miss was able to jump ahead by three points. 

Hood’s first ace of the match allowed the Hilltoppers to knot up the score 16-16. The score stayed tight heading into the end of the third set. A kill by Isenbarger brought the score to 21-20, with WKU ahead by one. 

A kill by Ole Miss’ Brgoch followed the timeout, but WKU gained a one-point lead again after a kill by Davis. A kill by Matthews and an Ole Miss attack error led to set point, while WKU led 24-21. 

The Hilltoppers claimed their only set of the night 25-22 after Jackson hit a kill assisted by fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne.

Set 4 – Ole Miss 25, WKU 17

An ace from Ole Miss’ Brgoch began the fourth and final set of the night and a kill by Briggs got the Hilltoppers’ offense started. The Rebels had a four-point advantage on the Hilltoppers early on. 

Isenbarger’s first ace of the match and a kill by Jackson shortened the Rebels lead 6-5. Another Ole Miss four-point lead 10-6 led to WKU calling its first timeout of the fourth set. 

WKU gained a point following the timeout after a ball handling error occurred on the Rebels side of the court. Ole Miss’ lead was shaved to two points when Matthews hit a kill assisted by Dieudonne. 

Back-to-back kills and a block from Briggs knotted up the score 12-12. A block to a WKU ball allowed Ole Miss to run up a three-point lead which resulted in a WKU timeout. Another block to a Hilltopper ball happened following the timeout. 

“I thought Paige Briggs played very well tonight,” Dieudonne said. “She was someone throughout the whole match beginning to end that I have a lot of trust in, you saw her moving with the ball.”

Kills by Ole Miss’ Ratliff and Samantha Schnitta allowed Ole Miss to take two more four-point leads at 18-14 and 20-16. Ole Miss climbed ahead 22-16 after back-to-back kills by Brgoch.

Two more kills by Brgoch brought up match point and the Rebels won the match 25-17. 

“I thought we really competed,” Hudson said. “There are lessons to be learned from it. You still have got to do little things right.” 

The Hilltoppers will have a chance to bounce back Saturday afternoon when they take on UT Martin at 1:30 p.m. CT for the final match of the Holiday Inn – University Plaza Invitational.

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