Hilltoppers open FAU series with 12th consecutive sweep, remain perfect against the Owls


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

WKU (19-1, 7-0 C-USA) took on the Florida Atlantic Owls (10-12, 2-7 C-USA) Friday afternoon in Boca Raton, Florida. WKU swept the Owls 3-0, the Hilltoppers’ 12th consecutive sweep and 40th C-USA victory in a row.

The last time the two programs met was on Feb. 8, 2021, a matchup that also resulted in a 3-0 sweep in WKU’s favor. The Hilltoppers are now a perfect 28-0 against FAU and the sweep marked the program’s 20th road victory in a row, the current best streak in the nation.

Senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews notched 12 kills. Junior outside Paige Briggs contributed nine and fifth-year right side Kayland Jackson hit seven. 

“I thought [Kayland Jackson] was the one that really stood out,” head coach Travis Hudson said via radio interview following the match. “She looked fantastic out there.” 

Set 1: WKU 25, FAU 18

WKU was first to get a point to start off the match thanks to a kill by Matthews. 

The first set of the weekend was a back-and-forth affair with points being passed both ways. WKU was able to take a 11-9 advantage following a block by both freshman outside hitter Katie Howard and Matthews. 

WKU increased its lead to 14-11 after an ace by fifth-year defensive specialist Hallie Shelton. FAU then called its first timeout of the set. Shelton then brought in two more aces, giving the Hilltoppers their largest lead of the set 16-11. 

“I think Hallie Shelton served the ball well,” Hudson said. 

A block by both Jackson and senior middle hitter Katie Isenbarger led to a six-point WKU lead heading into the end of the set. The Hilltoppers close out the first frame 25-18. 

“I think I had a good mindset back there on the end line,” Shelton said. “And I think it showed up.” 

Shelton finished the day’s competition with five aces.

Set 2: WKU 25, FAU 15 

Howard began the second frame with a kill. WKU was first to double-digits, doing so while holding a four-point lead over the Owls. 

A kill by Matthews was followed by FAU calling its first timeout of the frame. WKU saw double-digit leads heading into the end of the second set. 

The Hilltoppers climbed to 20 after a kill by Matthews. A kill by junior outside hitter Jennifer Rush brought in set point, and WKU was able to handily claim the second set 25-15 after a block by Jackson and Matthews.

WKU finished the second sit with a .481 hitting clip.

Set 3: WKU 25, FAU 17 

FAU jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the last set of the match, but WKU was able to close the gap and leap ahead 9-8. Back-to-back FAU attack errors led to a 13-11 WKU lead and an FAU timeout. 

An FAU attack error led to set point. A block by Jackson and Isenbarger allowed WKU to close out the match, taking set three 25-17. 

WKU hit .333 in the final set, holding the Owls in the negative with a -.121. The Owls committed 12 errors to just three from the Hilltoppers’ side of the court.

WKU will take on FAU again on Saturday at noon to wrap up the series. Fans can watch the match on C-USA TV and Brett Williams will have the radio call on ESPN 102.7.

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