Lauren Matthews wasn’t pleased with the first set she played in the series against Charlotte and knew she had to step up her performance.

The Western Kentucky junior middle hitter was pivotal in the final two sets of Sunday’s series-opening win and was even better throughout the entire second meeting between the two programs Monday.

Matthews posted a career-high 25 kills to lead the Lady Toppers to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-20) victory to complete the sweep of the 49ers at E.A. Diddle Arena.

“I just felt like, not to necessarily prove to anyone, just for holding myself accountable for how I started yesterday – I just needed to turn a new page and a new game,” Matthews said. “It just gave me motivation.”

Matthews, the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year, started Sunday’s first meeting with an attack error and posted just two kills in the set – well below the standard she’s set for herself in her time at WKU. She ended up with eight in the second set and 14 in the match to tie her season-high originally set in the team’s lone fall match against UAB.

In the rematch, Matthews posted 25 kills and a .828 (25-1-29) hitting percentage. Her previous career-high for kills in a match was 22 in a five-set victory over Northern Kentucky in 2019.

Her hitting percentage was second-best in program history only to herself. Matthews posted the record .882 hitting percentage in the 2019 season against Samford when she had 15 kills on 17 attacks. Matthews connected on 23 of her first 24 attacks Monday, putting her at a .958 mark as WKU held a 21-14 lead in the third set – which was better than the current NCAA record of .955 for 20 or more attacks in a match.

“If people think Lauren Matthews is special because she’s a terrific athlete, they don’t understand because the kid is always craving getting better,” WKU coach Travis Hudson said. “From the film yesterday, she and I sat down this morning and watched it with a critical eye and looked at it and said, ‘Here’s things I think we can do better.’

“From the moment she got here, Lauren’s always been coachable. She’s always put her trust in me and goes out and tries to do exactly what I think needs to be done. We saw a couple things on film technique-wise that we thought we could clean up, and she did it and it was certainly impactful and maybe pivotal in this match.”

It was an overall efficient day offensively for the Lady Toppers, who stayed unbeaten by improving to 9-0 overall and 4-0 in Conference USA with the sweep. WKU posted a .483 hitting percentage as a team – its highest in a single match this season.

“It’s funny, we’re leading the nation in hitting percentage. Yesterday we hit, I think, .356 in the match, and when I watched the film last night, I looked at my wife and I said, ‘I know this sounds crazy, but I’m telling you, I think we can be a lot better offensively,’ “ Hudson said. “That’s a pretty snooty thing to say when you hit just .356, but today we hit .483, so I think the biggest jumps we made were from an offensive standpoint.”

Paige Briggs added 10 kills and 10 digs for her fifth double-double of the season, and Katie Isenbarger also added 10 kills with a .692 hitting percentage. Nadia Dieudonne recorded 39 assists.

“I think it was all kind of on an individual basis,” Isenbarger said. “We all kind of had different things we needed to adjust, and we really executed them well. ... All of us kind of had something in mind that we needed to fix, and I think we executed really well.”

Matthews recorded kills for each of WKU’s first four points and a block for the fifth to help take an early 7-1 lead. Charlotte (5-4 overall, 3-3 C-USA) drew the set even at 11-all and remained close until the Lady Toppers closed on a 9-2 run, capped off by an ace from Cameron Mosley.

Charlotte held a 19-18 lead in the second set, but WKU reeled off seven of the final nine points, including the final three on kills by Matthews, Briggs and a 49ers attack error, to take it 25-21.

WKU created some early separation in the third set with a 5-1 run that featured four kills from Matthews, but down 21-13, Charlotte reeled off a 7-1 run to get within two. The Lady Toppers closed the victory from there with the final three points, which included kills from Matthews and Briggs.

The Lady Toppers are next scheduled to travel to Marshall for two games next week, starting with a noon CT match Sunday in Huntington, W.Va.

Freshman Emani Foster led Charlotte with 14 kills in the match, while Sydney Rowan and Amani McArthur each added eight. The 49ers are next scheduled to host Middle Tennessee next week.{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.