Hilltoppers claim sixth sweep in a row, finish perfect weekend against Marshall

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Allie Hendricks

WKU defensive specialist Ashely Hood (11) jumps to save the ball during the match against St. John’s University at Diddle Arena on Sept. 18, 2021.

Cassady Lamb, Volleyball reporter

The No. 22 Hilltoppers (13-1, 2-0 C-USA) swept the Marshall Thundering Herd (4-11, 0-2 C-USA) 3-0 on Saturday afternoon at Diddle Arena. It was WKU’s second sweep over the Herd in as many days and the NCAA-best 35th regular-season conference victory in a row for the red and white.

WKU head coach Travis Hudson said Saturday’s match was his favorite performance of the year so far. 

“It was such a mental challenge to play this team last night and have to get up and play them again today,” Hudson said. “[I’m] really, really pleased with how our team played today, in all facets of the game.”

Hudson said that he has a lot of respect for Marshall and its program.

“We played very, very well this weekend and it would have taken a really, really good effort to find a way to beat us.”

WKU turned in a .495 hitting percentage, its highest mark of the season, compared to Marshall’s mark of just .132.

Senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews brought in 18 points for WKU on Saturday, hitting 17 kills.  Junior outside hitter Paige Briggs saw 12.5 points and 11 kills. Fifth-year right side Kayland Jackson brought in 11 kills for the Hilltoppers.

Matthews went from hitting single-digit kills on Friday to contributing 17 on Saturday. She said she watched film last night by herself and more this morning with Hudson.

“We talked it out and got some things straightened up with Nadia [Dieudonne] and here we are,” Matthews said.

Set 1 – WKU 25, Marshall 8

The first set of the day began with a Marshall block that went out of bounds, allowing WKU to claim the first point of the match. 

WKU went on a 7-0 scoring run early on, halting for a Herd timeout. Kills by Matthews and Fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne continued the run after the timeout, bringing WKU’s score to 10 while Marshall stood at just one point.

Dieudonne hit the first ace of the day, increasing WKU’s advantage to 18-4. Marshall was able to get its first point not due to a WKU error in the next play with a kill by Lydia Montague.

A kill by Matthews brought in set point and another ended the set with a score of 25-8. WKU hit 17 kills in the first set and Marshall hit three. It was the first time this season WKU had held an opponent to single-digits in a set.

Dieudonne said it felt great to see the team allow only three kills in the first set.

“I think we all felt that we were kind of honorable,” Dieudonne said. “We were locking them out like we wanted to. I think what happened was our serve receive, they were on point today, [as was our] small-ball defense. So, they were able to allow me to run the offense sufficiently.”

Set 2 – WKU 25, Marshall 15

WKU saw its largest lead in the second set following a kill by Matthews which brought the score to 15-6. The Hilltoppers were first to 20 points following a kill by Briggs that was assisted by Dieudonne. Dieudonne then hit the first ace of the set two plays later, increasing WKU’s lead to double-digits, 22-12.

Junior outside hitter Jennifer Rush substituted in at the end of set two and hit a kill immediately after coming into the match, ushering in set point. Set point continued for one more play after a WKU service error. Rush finished out the second set with a kill and WKU won 25-15.

Set 3 – WKU 25, Marshall 19

A kill by Matthews started off the third set for WKU and a kill by Marshall’s Ciara DeBell started things off for the Herd.

WKU was first to to double-digits following a kill by Briggs while the Hilltoppers were ahead by three points. WKU held onto the lead for the entire set.

Back-to-back kills by Briggs led to Marshall calling a timeout. Marshall came out of the timeout with a kill by Destiny Leon, bringing the score to 19-15. 

A Marshall attack error brought about set point, which continued for one more play after a bad set from WKU. A kill by Matthews closed out the third set 25-19.

Next, WKU will take on Florida International University on Friday, Oct. 1 at noon and Saturday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. CT. Both matches will be streamed on CUSA.TV and will also have a radio broadcast on ESPN 102.7. 

Hudson said he’s looking forward to being out on the road with the team.

“When we’re in town I find that I spend most of my time with our team as their coach,” Hudson said. “When we go on road trips, I get opportunities to just spend some time around them and catch up on life. It’s just us, just our family, and I look forward to those opportunities.”

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