Hilltoppers sweep Blazers in C-USA tournament quarterfinals


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

No. 18 WKU (25-1, 12-0 C-USA) took on the UAB Blazers (11-14, 6-7 C-USA) Friday evening in Norfolk, Virginia, to kick off C-USA tournament play. WKU swept the Blazers 3-0, winning the last two sets by double-digits.

Junior outside hitter Paige Briggs hit 15 kills. Senior middle hitter Lauren Matthews hit 12 and had four blocks while senior middle hitter Katie Isenbarger saw eight kills and four blocks. Fifth-year setter Nadia Dieudonne assisted 42 balls in Friday’s match.

Set 1: WKU 25, UAB 16

A kill by UAB’s Kiana Mack began the match and Isenbarger got WKU’s first kill of the day. Two kills by junior outside hitter Avri Davis and an ace by senior defensive specialist Ashley Hood had the Hilltoppers up 7-2 early on in the first set.

WKU was first to get to 10 points after a block by Isenbarger and Dieudonne. A WKU attack error allowed UAB to close the gap to 14-13. 

Two kills by Briggs and an ace by fifth-year libero Logan Kael allowed WKU to take a five-point lead and UAB took the first timeout of the match.

A 5-0 Hilltopper run, ending with a kill by fifth-year right side Kayland Jackson, closed out the first set 25-16.

Set 2: WKU 25, UAB 13

The second set of the day started off with a 5-0 scoring run for WKU. WKU was again first to 10 points, holding off the Blazers by a six point gap. 

UAB could do little to claw any closer and Isenbarger closed out the second set 25-13.

WKU turned in an eye-popping .636 hitting percentage in the second set while UAB was held to an abysmal .037 hitting clip.

Set 3: WKU 25, UAB 15

UAB was able to snatch an early 5-3 lead in the last set of the night. The Blazers were first to get to double digits, holding a one-point lead over the Hilltoppers while doing so. The set stayed tight while the two sides gave each other back-to-back points and the score was knotted up eight different times.

WKU finally broke through and ran up the score 18-10 in the Hilltoppers’ favor, forcing the Blazers to call a timeout.

A kill by Isenbarger finished off the red and white’s first match of the C-USA Tournament, taking care of the Blazers by a 10-point margin.

WKU will take on the UTEP Miners on Saturday to continue tournament play. The match is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. CT. Fans can watch the match on ESPN+ and can also tune in to ESPN 102.7 for a radio broadcast. The winner reserves their spot in the 2021 Conference USA Championship.

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