Hilltoppers earn third perfect conference run with 3-1 defeat of Charlotte


Allie Hendricks

The WKU volleyball team celebrates after winning the match against St. John’s University at Diddle Arena on Sept. 18, 2021.

Cassady Lamb, Volleyball reporter

No. 17 ranked WKU (24-1, 12-0 C-USA) took on the Charlotte 49ers (12-12, 5-7 C-USA) Sunday morning to close out its final series of the regular season. WKU won 3-1, storming back after falling in the first set. The Hilltoppers finished conference play with a spotless record for the third season in a row.

The win extended WKU’s road and conference winning streaks to 23 and 45 matches respectively, both good for the best runs in the nation.

Senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews hit 23 kills and held a .514 hitting clip in Sunday’s match. Junior outside hitter Paige Briggs had 22 digs. Senior middle hitter Katie Isenbarger hit 10 kills with a .615 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Avri Davis and fifth-year right side Kayland Jackson both knocked in eight kills.

Fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne had 51 assists in the match. Ashley Hood served a career-high five aces and had 10 digs throughout the day.

“It’s always a reward to see your hard work pay off,” Hood said. “It was really nice to execute today and have that going into tournament time.”

Head coach Travis Hudson thought Hood had a terrific day.

“She was in it, she was energized,” Hudson said. “You become a good coach when you have kids who are interested in being great.”

Set 1: CLT 25, WKU 21

A Charlotte attack error began the match, allowing the Hilltoppers the first point of the day. An attempted kill by Jackson that ended up out of bounds gave Charlotte its first point of the match.

The 49ers were able to catch an early 4-1 lead. Their lead further increased to 9-3 and WKU called the first timeout of the match. Kills by Charlotte’s Maia Edwards and Sydney Rowan followed the break. 

Charlotte was the first to get to 20 points, doing so with a six-point advantage. Back-to-back kills by Matthews shortened Charlotte’s lead to 21-18. Charlotte then called its first timeout of the match and Davis recorded three kills coming out of the break.

A WKU service error brought up the first set point while the 49ers held WKU at bay 24-21. A kill by Rowan finished off the set in Charlotte’s favor, 25-21. 

Hudson compared Sunday’s match to Friday’s match. The Hilltoppers fell to the 49ers in the first set on both days.

“The first set was like Groundhog day with six errors,” Hudson said.

Set 2: WKU 25, CLT 21

A kill by Clayton started off the first set for Charlotte. A kill by Matthews and an ace by Ashley Hood rung up WKU’s first points of the set.

WKU was first to 10 points following a kill by Katie Isenbarger, holding a two-point advantage over the 49ers. A block to a WKU ball by Amani McArthur and Clayton transferred the lead back to Charlotte. A block by Matthews and Davis gave the lead back to WKU once more at 13-11.

Points were traded and the two sides played neck-and-neck before WKU was able to gain a 21-19 lead and some breathing room. Charlotte then called a timeout. WKU went on a 3-0 scoring run which was followed by another Charlotte whistle. 

A kill by Jackson brought in set point, and Hood’s second ace of the day brought in WKU’s first set win of the match 25-21.

Set 3: WKU 25, CLT 13

The Hilltoppers made quick work of the 49ers in the third frame.

A Charlotte service error gave WKU its first point of the third set. Kills by Jackson and Davis gave WKU a 9-6 lead. Two kills by Matthews increased the Hilltoppers’ lead to 12-8 and Charlotte called a timeout in response.

WKU was first to get to 20 points, holding Charlotte to 12. The 49ers were forced to call a timeout. Back-to-back aces from Briggs allowed set point and WKU’s second set win of the day at 25-13.

Set 4: WKU 25, CLT 15

An ace by Hallie Shelton began the fourth and final set of the match. WKU went on a 5-0 scoring run resulting in a score of 14-6 and a 49er timeout. A kill by Jackson followed the break.

The Hilltoppers reached a 10-point, 18-8 advantage over the 49ers which was followed by another Charlotte timeout.

A Charlotte attack error brought up match point. A kill by Jackson finished off the final set of the Hilltoppers’ regular season 25-15. 

“I cannot express to you guys how much our tank is on empty,” Hudson said. “They’re so very exhausted and to see them dig deep in that match is tremendous for me to see.”

WKU will have some time to rest as the Conference USA Volleyball Championship is scheduled for Friday, November 19 to Sunday, November 21 in Norfolk, Virginia. 

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