Hudson earns 700th win after five set thriller against Northern Kentucky


Credit: WKU Athletics

WKU Volleyball Head Coach Travis Hudson yelling to his players during the game against FIU on Monday, March 8, 2021 in Diddle Arena.

Piper McCoun, Sports Reporter

WKU Volleyball  (7-1) defeated the Northern Kentucky University Norse (1-6) in a five set thriller Thursday night to open the Holiday Inn – University Plaza Invitational hosted by WKU at E.A Diddle Arena.

Head coach Travis Hudson gained his 700th win in tonight’s win over NKU. He is one of 10 active coaches in the NCAA to meet this mark and one of four coaches to accomplish 700 wins with one school. 

“I’m glad all 700 of them didn’t go like that,” Hudson said. “What a war, what an absolute battle, but a very important win for our team.”

Redshirt-freshman Callie Bauer had a memorable performance against the Norse. She had the first triple-double in school history since 2009. Bauer ended the night with 10 kills, 10 digs, and 39 assists. 

“Now I realize how much of an impact [playing offensively] can have on the game,” said Bauer. “Passes were putting me in good situations and I know it helps my hitters out. It’s just a role I have to take on sometimes.” 

Lauren Matthews led the Hilltoppers in kills, racking up 18 with a hitting percentage of .308. Kenadee Coyle followed that performance with 12 kills and a .219 hitting percentage. 

The Hiltopper offense finished the game with 54 total kills, 43 assists and five service aces. The Hilltopper defense was the deciding factor in tonight’s grudge match.  WKU limited NKU to a .193 hitting percentage and 15 total blocks. The Hiltopper defense also totaled 75 digs in the contest. 

 The first set began with a kill by NKU. The Hilltopers and Norse continued to trade points throughout the set until NKU went on a 3-1 scoring run. Hilltopper middle hitters Lauren Matthews and Katie Isenbarger put an end to that streak with back-to-back kills. The Hiltoppers advanced to a four point lead, 17-13. A combination of attack errors by the Hilltoppers and kills by the Norse led to a 22-22 tie late in the first set. The Norse were unable to capitalize on the opportunity and Lauren Matthews sealed the fate of the first set with a kill. WKU won 25-23. 

WKU opened up the second set with a kill from sophomore right side hitter Kenadee Coyle. NKU middle hitter Abby Kanakry scored a kill to put the Norse on top 4-3. After trading a few points, NKU went on a 9-1 scoring run after WKU tied the set 8-8, leaving the Hilltoppers trailing eight points 17-9 later in the second set. WKU responded with back-to-back kills by Lauren Matthews. When the score hit 19-11, WKU went on their own run, scoring seven straight points to decrease the gap, leaving the score 19-18. Though Hudson’s squad battled through to the end, Northern Kentucky closed the second set 25-23. 

Western Kentucky made plays early on in the third set, starting with a block and a kill by Lauren Matthews. Errors were made and points were traded on both sides of the net until WKU setter Callie Bauer scored a kill for the Hilltoppers at 7-3. WKU’s greatest lead of the set was six points after a block by Kenadee Coyle and Katie Isenbarger kept them ahead 10-4. A 7-2 run by the Norse narrowed the gap to 11-12 with the Hilltoppers ahead. A few service errors from both teams and a pair of kills by NKU outside hitter Joyce Banks lead to a tie in the set at 16-16. NKU went on a 9-2 run, defeating WKU 25-18 in the third set.

 The Hilltoppers opened the fourth set with a 6-0 run. Northern Kentucky followed with an attack error , resulting in Kenadee Coyle block and a kill. Lauren Matthews went on to score three consecutive  kills, forcing a Northern Kentucky timeout. NKU went on a 4-1 run after the timeout, leaving the score 7-3. Another kill and block by Lauren Matthews and a few WKU attack errors left the score 10-6. The Hilltoppers went on a 6-2 run credited to NKU errors and kills by Kenadee Coyle. Paige Briggs and Lauren Matthews scored back-to-back kills, putting the score at 22-14. WKU went on to conclude finish set 25-16. 

The fifth and final was a chess match. Both teams traded points until the score hit 3-3. Two kills by Callie Bauer and a service ace by Katie Isenbarger put the Hilltoppers up 6-3. A 7-3 run by WKU put the Hilltoppers ahead  13-6. Kenadee Coyle scored the last two points for the Hilltoppers, ending the match 15-9. 

The Hilltoppers return to play Friday at Diddle Arena where they will face the University Of Toledo Rockets at 6 p.m. CT. on the second day of the Holiday Inn Invitational. 

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