MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University volleyball team opened its spring season with a 3-1 loss at No. 21 Western Kentucky on Friday evening, at the E.A. Diddle Arena, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Hilltoppers (14-0, 8-0 C-USA) took the match from the Mountaineers (8-9, 8-8 Big 12) in set scores of 23-25, 25-23, 25-22 and 25-19.
“We competed pretty hard, but not hard enough,” sixth-year coach Reed Sunahara said. “Western Kentucky is a great team. They are consistently in the top 25, and it showed tonight. We have a long way to go, and we have to continue to get better.”
Junior outside hitter Kristin Lux had a career night, as she finished the match with a team-high 18 kills, good for a personal best, to hit .209. The North Bend, Nebraska, native also registered a season-best nine digs to go along with a career-high four service aces and a trio of blocks. In all, she scored 24 points on the evening.
Senior middle blocker Briana Lynch posted 16 kills on 32 attacks, with just three errors, for a team-best .406 hitting efficiency. Lynch also led the team’s blocking efforts with six block assists in the match.
“It’s a team effort,” Sunahara said. “Bri continued her solid play, and Lux had a pretty good game. I talked to her (Lux) after the match and told her that this was kind of a breakthrough for her, but she needs to continue to get better along with the rest of the team.”
Additionally, junior setter Lacey Zerwas dished out 48 of the team’s 55 assists to go along with seven digs and a trio of blocks.
Freshman outside hitter/defensive specialist Skye Stokes recorded 15 digs to match her career high, while senior defensive specialist Alexa Hasting rounded out the Mountaineers in double figures, adding 14 digs to the scoresheet.
WVU finished the match hitting .220 with 57 kills and eight team blocks. Led by Lauren Matthews’ 18 kills, Western Kentucky hit .324 with 58 kills and 12 team blocks.
The two teams traded points to start the opening set, but West Virginia took advantage of a 5-0 scoring run to gain the lead at 18-16. WVU continued to roll, as a pair of Mountaineer blocks and a kill from sophomore middle blocker Emmy Ogogor increased their lead to three at 21-18. WKU scored two straight out of a timeout to come within one, but Lux came up with a big swing, as WVU maintained its two-point edge at 22-20. The Hilltoppers then scored back-to-back points to knot the score at 22-all, but it wasn’t enough, as the Mountaineers claimed three of the last four points for the 25-23 first-set victory and 1-0 match lead.
The second set started similar to the first, with WVU scoring five-of-six points midway through the frame to knot the set at 16-all. However, WKU later took advantage of a 4-0 scoring streak of its own for the 21-18 lead and never looked back. The Hilltoppers used a kill from Matthews to reach set point at 24-21, but a WKU service error, followed by a kill from Lynch, kept the Mountaineers’ hopes alive at 24-23. Western Kentucky burned a timeout to regroup, as Matthews registered a kill out of the stoppage to capture the 25-23 second-set win.
With the overall match tied at one set apiece, the Mountaineers couldn’t keep the momentum going in sets three and four, falling by a score of 25-22 and 25-19, respectively.
Of note, senior outside hitter Athena Ardila, who transferred from Northeastern in January, made her Mountaineer debut tonight.
Up next, West Virginia heads to Washington, D.C., for a match at George Washington on Wednesday, March 17, at 3 p.m.