WKU Volleyball dominates first two opponents of regular season

The+WKU+volleyball+team+celebrates+after+winning+the+match+against+St.+John%E2%80%99s+University+at+Diddle+Arena+on+Sept.+18%2C+2021.

Allie Hendricks

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

Piper McCoun and Mason Fletcher

The No. 21 Hilltoppers (2-0) kicked off their season by sweeping both the University of Miami (OH) Redhawks and Bradley University Braves in their first six sets of the year in the CEFCU Invitational Friday in Peoria, Ill. 

Game 1: WKU 3, Miami 0

The Hilltoppers opened the 2022 campaign with yet another debut win, making the team 19-8 in season openers in the Travis Hudson era. The Hilltoppers did not seem to miss a beat in their first outing.

Hudson’s squad dominated the Redhawks in every set. WKU’s offense put up 41 kills and 12 points coming off of service aces. The team did a solid job in setting teammates up at the net, finishing the game with 29 assists.

Senior Paige Briggs led the Hilltoppers with 10 points, contributing seven kills and two aces. Fifth-year senior Lauren Matthews had an outstanding game in the season opener, leading the red and white with a game-high eight kills and two blocks on a 40% hit rate. 

In the first set, the Hilltoppers dominated, allowing less than 10 points from the Redhawks in a 25-8 victory. Briggs started out on fire with two kills and an ace across the first 17 points. WKU fed off of Matthews’ high level of play, embarking on a 6-0 run to stretch the lead to 12, finishing the rest of the way 7-2 to close the door.

The Redhawks struck first in the second set, taking a 1-0 lead off a double block. WKU responded quickly.Senior Jennifer Rush came back with an ace and after some back-and-forth play the set was tied up at 19-all.  WKU gained separation late in the set with an ace from fifth-year senior Ashley Hood and a kill from Matthews. WKU took set two with a win, 25-22. 

WKU opened the final set on a 3-0 run. Redshirt freshman Callie Bauer contributed an ace, putting the Hilltoppers up 9-6. The game wouldn’t get closer than two points the rest of the way. An ace from Hood started another run, this time 9-0, which was capped off by back-to-back kills from Rush stretching the lead to 19-9. Fifth-year senior Katie Isenbarger cemented the sweep and WKU won the set 25-12. 

GAME 2: WKU 3, Bradley 0

WKU defeated Bradley University 3-0 in their second game Friday. The Hilltoppers finished the game with a team total of 43 kills, a hitting percentage of .405, six service aces and 42 digs. 

Senior outside hitter Briggs had a standout performance with a total of 14 kills over 25 attacks, leaving her with a hitting percentage of .440. Briggs also racked up 11 digs over three sets. Matthews also finished the game with 14 kills with a hitting percentage of .500. 

The first set started with an attack error from Matthews, but she redeemed herself with a kill to tie the game 1-1. Bradley led 10-8 until Briggs went on a personal 3-0 run to give the Hiltoppers a 13-8 lead and force a Bradley timeout. WKU went on two more separate 3-0 runs, putting the red and white up 20-13. Bradley battled back scoring three more points, but it was not enough to stop the Hiltoppers. WKU won the opening set 25-16.

WKU opened the second set on fire with a 11-2 run. Matthews had three kills during the scoring rush, followed by three service aces from sophomore Katie Howard. The Braves would battle back and narrow the lead to five, 17-12.Briggs and Matthews provided back-to-back kills to stretch the lead to 19-12. Bradley managed to get the lead down to four, 23-19. Bradley’s Karagan Coggin committed a ball handling error to give WKU set point. WKU won the set thanks to a kill by Matthews.

WKU started the final set on a 3-0 run. The Braves had no answers for the WKU offense the entirety of the contest. Bauer set Matthews up for back-to-back kills to give WKU a 14-7 lead. Bradley only scored six more times as WKU breezed by in the final set to cap off the impressive season debut, 25-13.

WKU Volleyball’s final match of the weekend is against the University of Missouri-Kansas City Sunday at 1 p.m. CT in Peoria Illinois.

Sports reporter Mason Fletcher can be reached at can be reached at [email protected]

Sports reporter Piper McCoun can be reached at can be reached at [email protected]