Award round-up: WKU lands 10 on All-Conference teams, Volleyball earns AVCA recognition


Brittany Fisher

Western Kentucky University football team steps onto Feix Field in Houchens-Smith Stadium before the 2021 homecoming game against the Charlotte 49ers on Oct. 30.

Jake Moore, Sports Editor

The Hilltoppers’ 2021 season was a complete team effort, and nothing exemplifies that more than the 10 players the program landed on the 2021 Conference USA All-Conference teams.

WKU saw six members of its roster earn first-team honors and four Hilltoppers wind up on the second team on Tuesday. WKU’s 10 spots ranked second behind UTSA’s 11.

The program landed six players on the first team back in both 2015-2016, illustrating how similar this year’s success mirrors the team’s Jeff Brohm era.

To no one’s surprise, Bailey Zappe and Jerreth Sterns both made their way onto the first team. Joining them was offensive tackle duo Mason Brooks and Cole Spencer along with defensive end DeAngelo Malone, his third such selection, and defensive back Beanie Bishop. Bishop also earned an honorable mention for his other role as kick returner.

The Hilltoppers to make the second team were guards Quantavious Leslie and Boe Wilson, wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley and kicker Brayden Narveson. The program earned an all-rookie team nod thanks to the selection of long snapper Jake Bowman and 11 other Hilltoppers earned honorable mentions.

Malone earned his third first-team selection due to his stellar play on defense this year, tying for the C-USA lead with 16.5 tackles for loss and finishing second in the league with eight sacks. He ranked 12th in C-USA with 88 total tackles and tied for the league lead with four forced fumbles.

Bishop is just the second defensive back to land on the first team since the Hilltoppers joined C-USA. He recorded 41 tackles and three picks to go along with a pair of pass breakups and a forced fumble. 25 returns for 609 total yards earned him his honorable mention for kick returning.

WKU center Rusty Staats earned an honorable mention as well, meaning that WKU’s entire o-line was recognized. And for good reason – Pro Football Focus gave the line a 92.1 pass blocking rating, best in FBS competition. The unit only surrendered 16 sacks, providing Zappe with ample time and protection all season long.

Narveson has gone 22-of-27 on his field goal attempts this year and has made every single one of his 64 extra point attempts. His 130 total points scored is a new program record and led all FBS kickers. Narveson was deadly accurate on close kicks, going 17-of-17 on attempts under 40 yards, only missing on 53, 53, 57 and 43-yarders.

The full list of WKU’s honorees can be found below:

First Team

QB Bailey Zappe

WR Jerreth Sterns

RT Mason Brooks

LT Cole Spencer

DE DeAngelo Malone

DB Beanie Bishop

Second Team

WR Mitchell Tinsley

LG Quantavious Leslie

RG Boe Wilson

K Brayden Narveson

Honorable Mention

TE Joey Beljan

C Rusty Staats

DT Jeremy Darvin

DT Darius Shipp

LB Will Ignont

SAF A.J. Brathwaite, Jr.

CB Kahlef Hailassie

SAF Antwon Kincade

P John Haggerty III

LS Jake Bowman

KR Beanie Bishop

All-Freshman Team

LS Jake Bowman

Five WKU Volleyball athletes named to AVCA All-Region List

WKU Volleyball bowed out of the 2021 NCAA Tournament with a second round loss to Georgia Tech, but the defeat shouldn’t obscure the work Travis Hudson and his athletes put in during the fall season.

The program landed five of its players on the 2021 American Volleyball Coaches Association DI All-Region List on Tuesday, and 2021 Alyssa Cavanaugh Player of the Year Lauren Matthews added to her resume by being selected as the South Region Player of the Year.

Nadia Dieudonne, Kayland Jackson, Paige Briggs and Katie Isenbarger all made the team with Matthews. Seven athletes from Conference USA were selected to the South Region team with Charlotte’s Sydney Rowan and UAB’s Fernanda Maida.

Matthews tallied 440 kills, a .480 hitting percentage, 519 points and 123 total blocks in the fall.  Dieudonne turned in 1,114 assists, 100 points and 173 digs and was named to the Conference USA All-Tournament Team. Briggs put up 267 digs and 290 kills while Jackson finished the season with 226 kills, 258 points and 63 total blocks. Isenbarger recorded 160 kills, a .385 hitting clip and 231 points.

Sports Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.