Hilltoppers sweep Monarchs to kick off final home series of 2021


Jacob Latimer

WKU Hilltoppers’ senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews (5) spikes the ball over three Old Dominion players during the match on Oct. 28, 2021.

Cassady Lamb, Volleyball reporter

No 18 WKU (21-1, 9-0 C-USA) took on Old Dominion (11-12, 3-6 C-USA) Thursday evening to begin its homecoming weekend series against the Monarchs, the program’s final two home matches of the season. WKU swept its Conference USA rivals 3-0.

The win marked WKU’s 42nd conference win in a row, an NCAA-best streak. WKU hasn’t dropped a match since it lost 3-1 to Ole Miss on Sep. 10.

WKU finished the night with a .472 hitting clip compared to ODU’s mark of .000.

“I think everyone was just doing their best,” Fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne said. “It’s making my job easier when my players are making good decisions and hitting the percentages they are. It’s really easy to set like that and it’s fun and I’m proud of everyone and myself as well.”

Senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews hit 13 kills in Thursday’s match. Junior outside hitter Paige Briggs hit eight kills. Senior middle hitter Katie Isenbarger and freshman outside hitter Katie Howard hit six kills apiece. Dieudonne assisted 31 balls and hit five kills. Fifth-year defensive specialist Hallie Shelton hit three aces throughout the night.

Matthews now holds the record for career solo blocks, 116, for WKU’s volleyball program.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Matthews said. “Everyone’s always focused on the offense part but defense has also been key in this game.”

Set 1 – WKU 25, Old Dominion 13

Thursday’s match began with a kill by Monarch Alessia Sgherza. Matthews hit WKU’s first kill of the match.

ODU called the first timeout of the day after WKU pulled ahead to an early 6-2 lead. The Hilltoppers were first to double-digits following a kill by Isenbarger. 

A strong kill by Briggs brought the score up 20-11 in WKU’s favor. A kill by Howard allowed WKU to achieve a 10-point lead heading into the end of the set. This forced ODU to call its second timeout.

A kill by fifth-year right side Kayland Jackson brought in set point. An out-of-bounds Monarch ball allowed WKU to gain its 25th point, closing out the first set 25-13 with a Hilltopper win.

Set 2 – WKU 25, Old Dominion 16

A kill by Matthews began the second set. Isenbarger hit the Hilltoppers’ first ace of the match in the following play. WKU was again able to reach double-digits first while ODU had seven points.

The Monarchs called their third timeout of the match following a block by Matthews and Dieudonne. Back-to-back aces by Shelton let the score climb to 18-9.

Another ODU timeout was called while the Hilltoppers inched closer to a set win after a kill by Matthews brought WKU’s lead to nine points. A kill by Monarch Hailey Duncan followed the timeout.

A short serve from ODU brought about set point. A kill by Howard closed out the second set 25-16 with another win for the home team.

Set 3 – WKU 25, Old Dominion 14

The third and final set of the night began with a long-fought ball that resulted in a kill by ODU’s Sgherza. An ODU service error handed WKU its first point of the set. 

Shelton scored the Hilltoppers’ first ace of the third set. Two Monarch attack errors led to an early 8-4 lead for WKU, and ODU called its first timeout. A kill by Isenbarger and an ace by fifth-year defensive specialist Logan Kael followed the break.

An ace by Isenbarger allowed the Hilltoppers an eight-point advantage over the Monarchs which resulted in ODU calling its sixth timeout of the night. A block by Matthews and Dieudonne gained WKU its 20th point of the match and a 10-point advantage.

Head coach Travis Hudson said watching Dieudonne grow in the time she has been at WKU has been really special.

“I remember the first week or two she was at our gym,” Hudson said. “I remember her just looking at me like I was crazy running this offense that we run that is so unique, and now to see her two years later being in complete control of it.”

A solo block by Matthews brought in match point. A WKU service error kept match point alive for one more play. A kill by Matthews finished off the set 25-14.

“I think we’re all pretty excited,” Matthews said. “We’re focused on what’s in front of us right now, so the next game, which is tomorrow. But we’re also excited to see how far we can take it this year.”

WKU will take on ODU again on Friday at 6 p.m. CT for WKU’s senior night, where six Hilltopper seniors will be honored. Students can get into the match for free. Fans can also watch the match on C-USA tv with a subscription, or tune into the radio broadcast on The Edge 98.3.

Dieudonne said what’s coming next for her is exciting.

“I wouldn’t be able to pursue what I’m doing next without my experiences [at WKU],” Dieudonne said. “So, [I’m] really grateful for the opportunity that Travis [Hudson] gave me and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Matthews said playing alongside the seniors has been amazing and that it’s a blessing she gets to play an extra season at WKU.

“Tomorrow’s actually going to be hard even for me because it’s kind of like saying goodbye,” Matthews said. “Obviously, we’re going to play again but emotions are going to be very high.”

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