WKU steals Herd’s thunder in C-USA opener


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

The WKU Hilltoppers celebrate after a point against the Marshall Thundering Herd on the evening of Sept. 24, 2021 during their volleyball match in Diddle Arena.

Cassady Lamb, Volleyball reporter

The No. 22 Hilltoppers (12-1, 1-0 C-USA) swept the Marshall Thundering Herd (4-10, 0-1 C-USA) 3-0 on Friday night to kick off conference play in front of WKU’s home crowd at Diddle Arena.

The win marked the fifth sweep in a row for the red and white and the 34th straight conference victory for the Hilltoppers, the best active streak in the NCAA. WKU as a unit finished with a .358 hitting percentage and held the Herd to a measly mark of just .112.

Junior outside hitter Paige Briggs brought in the most points for the Hilltoppers on Friday night, contributing 18.5 points with 15 kills and maintaining a .560 hitting clip. Freshman outside hitter Katie Howard brought in 12 points for WKU with 12 kills and a .429 hitting percentage. Fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne made 39 assists throughout the match. 

Set 1 – WKU 25, Marshall 11

Fifth-year defensive specialist Hallie Shelton kicked off set one with a serve resulting in a bad set by Marshall’s Sydney Lostumo, allowing WKU to take the first point of the match. Senior defensive specialist Ashley Hood scored the first ace of the night, bringing the score to 3-1.

Marshall knotted things up 3-3 but WKU then ripped off a 7-0 scoring run, only stopping for a Marshall timeout. The run grew to 10-0 and included three aces by fifth-year defensive specialist Logan Kael, three kills by Briggs and a block by senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews. The streak resulted in a 10-point advantage over the Herd at 13-3. 

WKU reached 20 points following an ace by Briggs while Marshall stayed at seven points. An ace by Shelton brought in the first set point of the night at 24-9. Marshall kept set point going for two more plays with a kill by Macy McElhaney and a WKU attack error but a kill by Matthews closed out the first set 25-11 for a Hilltopper win.

Set 2 – WKU 25, Marshall 16

The second set of the match began with two 3-0 WKU runs with kills by Matthews and Howard and blocks by Matthews and Dieudonne. 

WKU was first to get to double digits and a Marshall timeout followed. WKU kept the lead for the entirety of the second set, save for a tie occurring in the beginning.

A kill by Howard and back-to-back kills by Briggs brought WKU to set point while leading 24-16. WKU won the second set 25-16 following a kill by Matthews.

Set 3 – WKU 25, Marshall 21

The last set of the night began with an ace by Shelton. WKU went on an early 4-0 scoring run en route to a 7-3 lead. 

Marshall tied up the score 11-11 before jumping ahead 3-11, forcing WKU into its first timeout of the match. Matthews fired out of the timeout with a kill assisted by Dieudonne. 

WKU’s disadvantage grew to 16-13 after Marshall blocked a Hilltopper ball, resulting in Hudson calling another timeout for his team. 

“Frankly, we couldn’t get [Marshall] stopped,” head coach Travis Hudson said after the match. “They really hurt us in the middle of the court, that’s not something that should’ve happened. Our middles didn’t follow our game plan very well.”

A kill by Jackson tied up the score 20-all and Marshall called a timeout. Marshall called another timeout four plays later after WKU jumped ahead 23-21. A kill by Howard brought the third set to match point, and another kill by Howard finalized the match for WKU 25-21.

Hudson said one thing that he would like to see implemented in tomorrow’s match is fewer unforced errors.

“We just can’t really think about this game, like how the results went,” Briggs said after the match. “You have to just start tomorrow and go out as a new day.”

WKU will take on Marshall once more at noon on Saturday to cap off the series. Fans that present their ticket for WKU’s football game against Indiana will gain entry to the match for free. Students are always granted free access to home volleyball matches with a valid WKU student ID.

“[We] need everybody back out here tomorrow with your football ticket in your hand,” Hudson said. “Make us part of your tailgating festivities.”

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