Lady Toppers take down FIU, Shelton notches six aces

WKU Volleyball head coach Travis Hudson yelling at his players during the against FIU on Sunday, March 7, 2021 in Diddle Arena.

Cassady Lamb

WKU (12-0), (7-0, C-USA ) took on Florida International (1-7), (1-6, C-USA) at Diddle Arena on Sunday beginning this week’s series. WKU claimed a clean sweep on Sunday to begin the series. 

The last time these two had met each other was October of 2019, with WKU sweeping FIU 3-0. WKU currently holds a 14-0 win streak against FIU.

Senior outside hitter and right side Hallie Shelton hit six aces in Sunday’s match. Sophomore outside hitter Paige Briggs hit 13 kills and junior middle hitter Lauren Matthews hit 11, with a .450 hitting percentage.

“Something we talk about a lot in our gym and Travis always repeats is that we can’t get complacent with winning,” Shelton said in a post-match Zoom conference Sunday.

Shelton said it’s hard to come back after sweeping a team and be able to stay as sharp as in the previous match.

“We just have to stay sharp in all phases of the game, and mentally, and we should be just fine,” Shelton said.

Set 1

FIU was the first team to get up on the scoreboard. A kill by Matthews got the Lady Toppers their first two points, leading to a 2-2 tie.

A block by Briggs and Matthews pushed WKU up to a 4-3 lead. The team continued to dominate the court, staying ahead for the rest of the set. 

Isenbarger hit her second kill of the match letting WKU see double digits. Isenbarger hit her third kill of the match in the following play, WKU being up by four 11-7.

Head Coach Travis Hudson describes Isenbarger as “a kid that works so hard at it every day.”

WKU went on a four-point-scoring streak, a kill by Isenbarger, two kills by sophomore Avri Davis, and Briggs’ first ace of the match. This streak led WKU to a lead of seven, the highest lead the teams had seen thus far. 

A kill by Briggs with an assist by Nadia Dieudonne brought the Lady Toppers up 20-10, a double-digit lead.

Matthews blocked an FIU ball, bringing the score up 21-10, and set one step closer to the setpoint.

A Panthers bad set led set one to setpoint, with WKU finishing it off with a kill by Briggs and a 13 point lead.

Set 2

WKU was the first to put up points in set two, with a kill by Jackson and an ace by Hood. A WKU service error led the Panthers’ to their first point. 

Following her substitution into the match, Shelton hit an ace, bringing the Lady Toppers lead up to four, 5-1. A Hilltopper seven-point-scoring streak, including three kills from Briggs, increased the team’s lead to 10.

Briggs hit her 10th kill of the match in the second set, bringing WKU’s lead back up to ten, 15-5.

A kill by Matthews with an assist by Dieudonne pushed the score up to 20-8. This play was followed by an ace by Hallie Shelton. That play was continued by FIU’s second timeout of set two, the fourth of the match.

A no-contact kill by Matthews yet again brought the Lady Toppers lead up to double-digits, 22-12. The next play led to a block by freshman Shannon Keck and Isenbarger, increasing the team’s lead.

A Panther ball mishandling error led set two to the setpoint. WKU finished off another set with a set win, this time with a 12 point lead, 25-13.

Set 3

Set three began with an FIU block leading to a point for the Panthers. A kill by Jackson led the Lady Toppers to their first point. Two plays later, Briggs hit her 12th kill of the match, putting WKU in the lead 3-2.

Contrary to the two previous sets, the score stayed tight at the beginning and FIU led for six plays. WKU broke FIU’s set three lead after a Panther service error, a block by Jackson and Isenbarger, broke a 10-10 tie. 

A 3-0 run followed by a 5-0 run began to secure WKU’s lead, bringing the Lady Toppers lead up to six, the scoreboard reading 17-11.

FIU errors were prominent this match, with 13 errors transferring to points for WKU in the third set. WKU showed five errors throughout set three. An FIU attack error led to match point, and a kill by Briggs concluded the final set, bringing WKU’s lead over FIU to 10, 25-15.

“Happy to get the win today,” Hudson said. “I don’t think we saw the best Florida International team that they could have put out there, I thought they were pretty mistake-prone today, made it kind of a choppy match to be a part of. We do what we need to do to sustain, get off of a little bit of a rough start there in the third set but kind of steadied out.”

After a 5-0 scoring run, WKU grabbed set three, sweeping FIU 3-0, the team’s 10th sweep of the season. 

“It’s a process thing, like if we are committed to the process and committed to what Travis is telling us to do, and we’re really locked in as a team, and our mentality is sharp, I think all of us will be fine,” senior defensive specialist Logan Kael said Sunday when asked how the team stops their mentality shifting after a big win. “I mean it’s a testament to how well we’ve been doing.”

The Lady Toppers will take on the Panthers at home again tomorrow, Monday, March 7 at noon. Students receive free entry to all home matches, and faculty and staff receive free entry to tomorrow’s match.

Volleyball beat reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lambp0p