Hilltoppers sweep Ohio, Austin Peay in first day of WKU Volleyball Invitational


Arthur Trickett-Wile

WKU Hilltoppers’ fifth-year defensive specialist Logan Kael (18) and fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne (2) dive for a missed block during a volleyball match in Diddle Arena, against the Austin Peay Governors on Friday evening, Sept. 17, 2021.

Cassady Lamb, Volleyball reporter

WKU Volleyball (10-1) torched the Ohio Bobcats (0-9) and Austin Peay Governors (5-6) in the first day of action in the WKU Volleyball Invitational on Friday, sweeping both programs 3-0 in front of the Hilltoppers’ home crowd.

vs Ohio

WKU took on the Bobcats in the first match on Friday afternoon, sweeping 3-0. The last time these two teams faced each other was on Aug. 26, 2016.

Senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews brought in 15 points for WKU, hitting nine kills and holding a .643 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Paige Briggs brought in 10.5 points and hit seven kills. Fifth-year right side Kayland Jackson and senior middle hitter Katie Isenbarger both hit seven kills. Fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne assisted 34 Hilltopper balls in the match.

Set 1 – WKU 25, Ohio 19

The first set of the day for the Hilltoppers began with a serve from freshman defensive specialist Kelsey Brangers and resulted in a kill by Jackson. The Bobcats hit their first kill of the match in the next play with a kill by Maggie Nedoma.

“I thought Kelsey Brangers did a really nice time as her time as a libero,” head coach Travis Hudson said.

The score at the beginning of the set stayed tight, but WKU was able to go on a 3-0 scoring run, bringing the score to 9-6. Ohio then called its first timeout of the day.

Briggs hit the first ace of the match after the timeout, and Jackson and Isenbarger teamed up for a block, continuing the Hilltoppers’ run to 5-0. The run was stopped when Bobcat Caroline Clippard hit a kill.

Another 3-0 run increasing the Hilltoppers lead to 18-14 was followed by the Bobcats taking their second timeout. 

A block by Matthews led to set point, while WKU held a six-point lead. Setpoint continued after a service error allowing the Bobcats to gain a point. A kill by Matthews assisted by Dieudonne closed out the first set of the day 25-19.

Set 2 – WKU 25, Ohio 16

WKU Hilltoppers’ fifth year Nadia Dieudonne (2) sets up fifth year Logan Kael (18) during the match against Ohio University on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Diddle Arena. (Tessa Killen)

The second set began with a kill by Jackson and a Bobcat attack error. Ohio was able to get its first point of the second set with a kill by Elizabeth Hoerlein.

WKU saw a four-point run and was the first side to reach double-digits following a kill by Brangers and a block by both Jackson and Matthews.

Matthews came out of the timeout with a block, followed by an ace by Brangers, evolving the run to 7-0. Two Bobcat blocks stopped the Hilltopper’s scorching-hot streak.

Isenbarger said that seeing the freshmen bring energy onto the court “is awesome”.

“I’m so stinking proud of the freshman,” Isenbarger said. “They work so hard in practice, they come out, when they come in the game they bring something – they have energy.”

Howard’s second kill of the day brought the score up to 16-8, and Ohio called its second timeout of the set. Howard hit another kill in the play following the timeout. A kill by Briggs made WKU the first to 20 points.

A kill by Matthews brought in setpoint. Junior outside hitter Jennifer Rush hit her first kill of the match allowing WKU to bring in set two 25-16.

“We were intentional about bringing that energy and bringing everyone up,” Isenbarger said.

Set 3 – WKU 25, Ohio 19

A block by Matthews and freshman outside hitter Katie Howard led the Hilltoppers to get their first point of the third set. A kill by Clippard brought in Ohio’s first point. Another block by Matthews led to Ohio taking an early timeout while the score was 4-2.

“Katie Howard had another good match today,” Hudson said. “I think she’s doing some good things, she’s a very different kind of player than Avri [Davis]. I think the combination of the two of them is really, really good for our team.”

WKU achieved a 7-3 lead after a kill by Brangers. WKU was first to double-digits following a kill by Briggs. 

Ohio was able to close in the score 12-11, but WKU gained a three-point lead after a kill by Isenbarger and an ace by fifth-year defensive specialist Hallie Shelton.

A block by Matthews bringing the score to 17-13 was proceeded by a Bobcat timeout. A kill by Matthews allowed set three to go into set point and an ace by Shelton closed out the match with WKU’s third set win 25-19.

“We all had a good feeling about [the match] before we came out and played, and we were right,” Isenbarger said. 

vs Austin Peay

WKU took on Austin Peay State University later on in the evening. The last time the two teams had met was two years ago.

Set 1 – WKU 25, APSU 18

WKU Hilltoppers’ freshman outside hitter Katie Howard (26) reels back to toss her towel into the Diddle Arena crowd. (Arthur Trickett-Wile)

The first set of the night began with a kill by Matthews. The score stayed tight throughout the beginning of the first set, but WKU was able to gain a two-point advantage after Isenbarger blocked a Governor ball.

The Hilltoppers went up 11-8 after two Austin Peay attack errors. WKU’s lead increased to five points which led to Austin Peay taking its first timeout of the match.

An ace by Shelton and kills by Briggs and Matthews increased the Hilltoppers scoring run to 5-0. WKU was first to get to 20 after a kill by Briggs brought the Hilltoppers up 20-11.

A kill by Matthews brought in the first set point of the night. An out-of-bounds Governor ball closed out set one 25-18.

Set 2 – WKU 25, APSU 16

Set two began with a kill by Jackson. Austin Peay gained its first point of the second set with a kill by Elizabeth Wheat.

A block by Matthews and a kill by Howard allowed WKU to climb up to a four-point advantage early on in set two. The score then increased to 8-3 after an ace by senior defensive specialist Ashley Hood. This new lead was followed by a Governor timeout.

WKU’s lead climbed to 13-5, and Austin Peay was allowed three points, which brought the score to 13-8. Back-to-back Governor attack errors led to Austin Peay taking its first timeout of the second set.

The Hilltoppers were first to get to 20 after a kill by Matthews, assisted by Dieudonne. In the next play, Matthews blocked a Governor ball assisted by junior outside hitter Avri Davis, letting the Hilltoppers gain a six-point advantage.

Hudson called WKU’s first timeout of the match heading into the end of the second set while the Hilltoppers led 23-15. A block by freshman rightside hitter Kenadee Coyle brought set point. A kill by Matthews finalized another set win for WKU 25-16.

“Kenadee just keeps getting better and better on a daily basis,” Hudson said.

Coyle said she has given into what Hudson has told the team – sometimes you have to look ugly for a little bit to get better.

“I’ve started getting into the fact that to get better I kind of have to look a little dumb sometimes when I’m learning new techniques and learning how to do stuff,” Coyle said. “I think that’s really helped me improve a lot, it’s just really letting go of old stuff that I used to do and focusing on the new things.”

Set 3 – WKU 25, APSU 23

The third set began with a point for Austin Peay after the Hilltoppers mistook an in-bound ball for an out-of-bounds ball. Howard brought in WKU’s first point of the set after hitting her fourth kill of the night.

Austin Peay saw an early-on 5-2 lead, but WKU came back to knot up the score 5-5. The Hilltoppers continued on a 5-0 scoring run, gaining the lead 7-5 after two Governor balls were hit out of the zone.

Austin Peay was able to gain a four-point advantage following an ace by Brooke Moore. WKU then called its first timeout of the third set. A Hilltopper attack error and a kill from Austin Peay’s Mikayla Powell came out of the timeout, increasing the Governor’s lead 14-8.

Briggs fired back with her third ace of the night, bringing in a double-digit score for WKU. The Hilltoppers climbed back up the scoreboard, going on a 6-0 scoring run and holding an advantage of two points. Austin Peay called a timeout while the score was in WKU’s favor 18-16.

Isenbarger hit four kills heading into the end of the final set of the match, two of which brought in both match point and the final set win for WKU at 25-23.

“I’m really, really proud of our team tonight,” Hudson said. “Austin Peay played with a great swagger about them. They played free and loose with nothing to lose and I thought our kids stood up to that really, really well.”

Next, WKU will take on St. John’s University on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT at Diddle Arena to conclude the WKU Volleyball Invitational. WKU will then begin C-USA play with a match against Marshall on Friday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. CT.

“I am so excited for conference play,” Isenbarger said. “A lot of good teams in our conference and I’m just pumped.”

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