Kayland Jackson - CUSA 4.1.21.jpg

Western Kentucky's Kayland Jackson connects with the ball Thursday against North Texas in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament in Hattiesburg, Miss.

No. 19 Western Kentucky used an all-around team effort to advance to the Conference USA Volleyball Tournament semifinals with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 27-25) sweep of North Texas on Thursday in Hattiesburg, Miss.

WKU’s Lauren Matthews and Kayland Jackson combined for 30 kills and a .541 hitting percentage, while Logan Kael and Paige Briggs each tallied 19 digs to limit the high-powered Mean Green offense.

“Maybe one of the worst first-round draws in conference tournament history because North Texas is a championship-level team,” WKU coach Travis Hudson said in a news release. “And we knew that from the time that we saw them on the bracket and that we would have to play very, very well today to get out of here with a win.

“I think our experience showed early. When North Texas was in control of things, I thought we stayed really composed, enough to be able to turn that thing a little bit and find a way to win. Respect for North Texas, I think this win speaks highly to the level of team that we have and we’re glad to be moving on.”

WKU improved to 19-0 on the season with its 16th sweep of the season and has now won 57 of 60 sets this season. North Texas’ season ended with an 11-11 record.

WKU trailed for much of the opening frame and didn’t take the lead for good until breaking a 20-all tie. The Lady Toppers stayed close though, using a couple small runs to slowly shift the momentum their way. After North Texas was the first to double digits, WKU fought back and would be the first to 20 and would break the tie with a block and a kill to force a Mean Green timeout. The sides traded points the rest of the way as Paige Briggs’ fourth kill of the frame gave WKU the 25-23 win.

Set two saw North Texas open up a 10-7 lead, but the Lady Tops stuck with the Mean Green – which led as late as 12-10 – before a 5-0 serving run from Hallie Shelton gave the Lady Toppers the lead for good at 15-12. UNT called its final timeout trailing 19-14, but the Lady Tops claimed four of the next six points to add some separation. A Jackson kill followed by a North Texas attack error would secure the 25-17 second-set victory.

WKU operated at its most efficient rate in the second set, owning a .471 clip with 18 kills against just two errors. The Lady Topper defense held UNT to its lowest rate of the match in the frame at .189.

Katie Isenbarger’s serving helped WKU to a quick 4-0 lead in the third frame before the Lady Toppers climbed out to an 8-2 lead. WKU’s lead grew to 10 at 21-11, but North Texas strung together an 8-0 run. The final tie of the match came at 25-all before Briggs and Isenbarger struck for back-to-back kills to close out the set, 27-25. The Lady Toppers racked up a match-best 19 kills in the final set.

Matthews finished with 17 kills against one error on 29 swings for a .552 hitting percentage. Jackson racked up 13 kills with just one error for a .545 hitting clip. Briggs also joined them in double-digit kills with 10 to go along with 19 digs for her 11th double double of the season.

Kael matched Briggs in the dig column as the duo accounted for 38 of the Lady Tops’ 62 digs. Ashley Hood added nine digs as well.

Isenbarger and Avri Davis tied for the team lead with three blocks apiece and each posted six kills.

Nadia Dieudonne posted a three-set match high 46 assists in the outing to go along with five digs.

WKU will face No. 2 seed from the West Division, UTEP, in Friday’s noon CT semifinal match. The Miners downed Marshall in the C-USA tournament quarterfinals in straight sets.{&end}