‘That’s a pretty fantastic win’: WKU Volleyball sweeps UNT, advances to C-USA title game

The+Hilltoppers+huddle+during+a+timeout+during+their+home+matchup+with+FIU+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+30%2C+2022+in+E.A.+Diddle+Arena+on+WKU+Campus+in+Bowling+Green%2C+Ky.+WKU+won+3-0.

Tucker Covey

The Hilltoppers huddle during a timeout during their home matchup with FIU on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 in E.A. Diddle Arena on WKU Campus in Bowling Green, Ky. WKU won 3-0.

Cole McIntire, Sports reporter

WKU Volleyball (28-2, 16-0 C-USA) defeated the North Texas Mean Green (17-15, 9-6 C-USA) 3-0 Saturday afternoon in Diddle Arena to advance to the Conference USA Championship. 

The Hilltoppers continued their dominance over inter-conference opponents on their home court. The team went against C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Sh’Diamond Holly, a junior for the Mean Green.

The last time WKU lost to the Mean Green was October 19, 2018 at home, a 3-0 sweep. Since then, the Hilltoppers are 3-0 in the series and have only given up two sets to the Mean Green. 

The Hilltoppers were led by fifth-year senior Lauren Matthews and fifth-year senior Katie Isenbarger. Matthews created 22 kills and hit .778. Isenbarger posted 13 kills and hit at a .684 clip.

“You want your seniors to rise to the occasion […] those are ridiculous numbers in the middle,” head coach Travis Hudson said.  “Overall not a lot to be upset with, that’s a pretty fantastic win.” 

The two middle hitters played incredibly efficient volleyball as they led their team to another conference championship. C-USA Freshman of the Year Callie Bauer complemented their play with 42 assists in the match. 

“We just want to go out there and swing as high and hard as possible,” Isenbarger said. “And that’s the most important way to gain the most confidence.” 

The set opened with the squads battling back and forth. The score was tied 2-2, then a kill by Katie Howard sparked a 7-2 Hilltopper run featuring two kills from Matthews. North Texas battled back, trimming the WKU lead to two points, making the score 10-8. The Hilltoppers were not fazed, only allowing six more points and winning the set 25-14.

Isenbarger created a three by three in the opening set of the day. She had three blocks and three kills. Additionally, Matthews had five kills and a .833 hitting percentage. The Hilltoppers held the Mean Green to a hitting percentage of .174 and 0 blocks in the first set. Dominance from the service line allowed WKU to control the tempo.

WKU opened the second set with a 10-4 run, capped off by two consecutive kills by Isenbarger and a service ace by Bauer before North Texas called a timeout. The Mean Green picked up a pair of points after the break but WKU ripped off a 8-5 run.

The Mean Green could not stop the inevitable as the Hilltoppers would go on to win the set 25-16. 

The Hilltoppers hit at a .481 clip in the second set while holding the Mean Green to a .194 hitting percentage. The Hilltoppers racked up 15 total kills, with Matthews leading the charge with nine.   

The Hilltoppers continued their dominance in the third set – North Texas never held a lead. The trio of Paige Briggs, Isenbarger and Matthews created nine kills in a 14-10 run to open the set. The Hilltoppers created 20 total kills, winning 25-19. 

“I think the most important part of it is our coverage, and I think that’s what helps give us confidence,” Matthews said. “If we swing away, we have someone behind us to cover our errors and keep us in play.”

The Hilltoppers will play the winner of Rice and UTEP on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. CT for the tournament title.

Sports reporter Cole McIntire can be reached at [email protected]