‘It’s hard to find fault in what we did today’: WKU sweeps MTSU to open C-USA tournament


Tucker Covey

WKU sophomore outside hitter Katie Howard hits the ball through MTSU defense during the Conference USA Tournament in E.A. Diddle Arena on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. WKU swept the match 3-0.

Jake McMahon, Sports reporter

WKU Volleyball (27-2, C-USA 15-0) swept the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders (15-14, C-USA 4-11) 3-0 in the first round of the Conference USA tournament Friday afternoon  in Diddle Arena.

The Hilltoppers came into this game as the C-USA regular season champions and the one seed in the tournament. MTSU came into Diddle sitting at the bottom of the bracket as the eight seed, riding a four game losing streak heading into Friday. 

This was the third time these two squads met this year. WKU dominated the Blue Raiders in the two previous contests, sweeping both matches.

MTSU was facing a team full of decorated athletes. Thursday evening, seven Hillltoppers were given Conference USA honors. Fifth-year senior Lauren Matthews earned the Alyssa Cavanaugh Player of the Year award for the second straight season. Matthews became just the third player in conference history to be given the honor. 

Matthews, along with freshmen Callie Bauer and senior Paige Briggs, were named first team all-conference. Bauer also earned freshman of the year honors and a spot on the all freshman team along with Abby Schafer. Katie Isenbarger was named a part of the Second Team All- Conference. Finally, head coach Travis Hudson was named Conference-USA Coach of the Year. 

Briggs had a dominant performance in the match. She led the match in kills with 15 on the day. She also tallied two service aces within the three sets.

Bauer also had herself a day. Bauer led both teams with 33 assists in the match. The freshmen also had seven digs in the contest.

As a unit, WKU totaled 42 kills in the match. The Hilltoppers hit very well with a .432 hitting percentage. WKU also tallied nine blocks and 24 digs in the game.  

The first set began with both teams trading blows early. The score was tied 4-4 within the first eighth points. However, the Hilltoppers began to create separation in the set.

WKU went on a nice 5-1 run to take the set lead 13-8. The Blue Raiders couldn’t get anything going on their side of the court and another run by WKU put the home team up 17-10. Although MTSU battled back and cut the WKU lead down to three, a kill by Matthews closed out the first set 25-21. 

The Hilltoppers came out of the huddle and dominated early in the second set. The Hilltoppers began the set on a 9–1 run, capped off by a kill from Briggs.

MTSU went on a 4-1 run of its own which made the score 10-5. However, the five-point deficit is as close as the Blue Raiders would get. An MTSU attack error finished a 5-0 run for the Hilltoppers and put WKU up 15-5. The Hilltoppers continued to dominate and a kill by sophomore Kenadee Coyle won set two by a score of 25-12. 

The third set was a lot closer than the previous two. Both teams traded runs early and the set was tied 8-8.

The two teams stayed locked together for the first half of the match and the teams were tied at 17 nearing the end of the set. The Blue Raiders were able to take the lead on an ace, but the Hilltoppers quickly took the lead back.

WKU went on a 5-0 run and went up 22-18. MTSU attempted a comeback but WKU proved to be too much, winning the set 25-21.

“I’m really pleased to get in and out in three sets and advance against a team we have a lot of respect for,” Hudson said. “It’s hard to find fault in what we did today.”

The Hilltoppers will play the winner of North Texas vs. UAB in the semifinals Saturday at noon.

Sports reporter Jake McMahon be reached at [email protected]