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Western Kentucky coach Travis Hudson delivers instructions Sunday against Kentucky during the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Sweet 16 at the CHI Health Center Omaha in Omaha, Neb.

The Western Kentucky volleyball team has its best final ranking in program history.

The Lady Toppers finished as the No. 16 team in the country in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, the organization announced Monday. The No. 16 ranking also matches the highest-ever ranking in program history.

WKU recently finished the 2020-21 season with a 23-1 record, with the only loss coming to eventual national champion Kentucky in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. The team’s .958 winning percentage was the highest in program history, and the program completed its first-ever undefeated regular season. It then won its sixth Conference USA Tournament in seven seasons in the league.

WKU beat Jackson State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and Washington State in the second round to advance to the program’s first Sweet 16. The Lady Toppers were ranked 18th before the final poll – one spot below Washington State.

Junior middle hitter Lauren Matthews was named an AVCA Second Team All-American – the highest individual honor the program has received – and sophomore outside hitter Paige Briggs and senior setter Nadia Dieudonne received AVCA Honorable Mention All-American status.

WKU’s No. 16 final ranking is the first time the program has been in the top 20 in the final poll, and the fourth time the program has finished in the top 25.

“A season with historic challenges ends with another historic accomplishment!” WKU director of athletics Todd Stewart tweeted. “Congratulations to (WKU coach Travis Hudson), staff and (WKU volleyball) players on earning the best final season ranking in program history!”

WKU was ranked in the final AVCA poll for the first time in 2012, when it went 33-4, won the Sun Belt Conference and beat Loyola Marymount in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. WKU ranked 22nd in the final poll in both 2015 and 2019. The Lady Toppers went 32-4 in 2015, won the Conference USA Tournament and beat Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In 2019, WKU went 32-2, with the only two losses coming to Louisville. The Lady Toppers won the C-USA Tournament and hosted NCAA Tournament matches for the first time ever that year, beating Kennesaw State before falling to the Cardinals.

WKU finished 26th in the final AVCA polls in both 2016 and 2017.

The No. 16 ranking also matches the highest-ever ranking the program has received in an AVCA poll. WKU entered 2013 as the preseason No. 21 team in the nation and moved to 16th in the first poll after play began that season.

WKU received its first-ever top 25 ranking in the week 13 poll in 2011, when it came in at No. 24. The Lady Toppers have been in the top 25 at some point every season since, with the exception of the 2018 season when the team went 20-10 and lost to Southern Miss in the opening round of the C-USA Tournament.

With the NCAA’s blanket waiver for an additional year of eligibility, WKU is expected to return its entire roster from the 2020-21 season this fall.

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