The No. 18 Western Kentucky volleyball team swept its second C-USA Tournament match in as many days as the Hilltoppers downed UTEP – the second seed out of the west division – in Saturday’s semifinals from the ODU Volleyball Center in Norfolk, Va.
Lauren Matthews and Paige Briggs both tallied double-digit kills for the second-straight match while the offensive operated at a collective .341 hitting percentage.
WKU claimed the first two sets, 25-16 and 25-17 before the Miners looked to reverse sweep their third-straight match. UTEP led much of the third frame before the Hilltoppers closed the frame on a 7-3 run for the 25-23 win to secure the sweep.
“We just hung around with great passing in serve receive,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said in a news release. “That was the only thing we were consistently doing well in that third set. UTEP couldn’t make long runs against us because we handled the ball so well in serve receive. So even though we were staring at a four- or five-point deficit, that turned into three and then two very slowly until we caught them around 20. It was because of very steady play in serve receive and a bunch of kids that have just won a lot of matches -- a lot of big matches -- and they know how to play in these settings. They didn’t waiver and we found our way through in the end.”
WKU climbs to 26-1 on the season including 19-consecutive wins while UTEP falls to 21-7. The Hilltoppers are now 20-1 all-time in the Conference USA Tournament, including eight-straight wins in the postseason event.
Nadia Dieudonne tallied 36 assists while leading WKU to its sixth-straight match hitting .325 or better. Matthews’ 13 kills were a match high while she added a .524 hitting percentage and three blocks. Briggs tallied double-digit kills for the 13th time this season with her 10-kill outing. She added seven digs, two blocks and an ace in the win.
Logan Kael delivered her second double-digit dig showing of the weekend with 14 digs. She was also flawless in serve receive for WKU with no errors in 31 times targeted.
Kayland Jackson and Avri Davis both struck for six kills with Davis operating at a career-best .600 clip. Jackson and Katie Isenbarger both added three blocks apiece.
Four different Hilltoppers recorded an ace in the match. Ashley Hood tallied two while Briggs, Hallie Shelton and Isenbarger each chipped in with one.
With the win, WKU advances to Sunday’s championship match against Rice for the third-straight season. First serve is slated for 10 a.m. CT from the ODU Volleyball Center and will be streamed on ESPN+.
WKU will face Rice in the championship match for the fifth time since joining C-USA. Three of the four previous meetings have gone five sets but the Hilltoppers have gone 4-0 in those meetings. WKU owns a 12-7 record by set against Rice in those four meetings.