Volleyball season comes to early end

Austin Lanter

A 27-6 overall record wasn’t good enough for the WKU volleyball team to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. For the first time in four years, the Lady Toppers will miss the postseason.

WKU (27-6, 17-2 Sun Belt Conference) ended the regular season on an 11-match winning streak, with 10 of those games being sweeps. The streak was good enough to earn them a 17-1 record in the Sun Belt, the most conference wins in a single season, and their third straight regular season conference title.

Going into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, the team was the No. 1 seed and the favorite to win it all. First up for the team was No. 8 Troy, the tournament’s host. Before their first round match, Troy had never beaten WKU in 21 attempts and had only won one set in those matches.

However, the Lady Trojans swept WKU in the first round and sent the team home early. All three sets were decided by two points and the Lady Toppers had set-point attempts in all three matches, but they were not able to finish Troy off.

“Troy was just in this magical zone,” coach Travis Hudson said. “We were on the wrong end of the stars lining up down in Troy.

“I’m proud of our kids and people around here should be proud of our kids because we showed up to play and we did not waiver. We played really, really hard. It just was not meant to be on that night.”

A newcomer to the league, Texas State, ended up taking the crown and the conference’s bid to the NCAA Tournament. WKU swept the Lady Bobcats both times they played them this season.

During the 2013 campaign, the team earned its 12th straight season with 25 or more wins.

A couple of individual WKU records fell as well. Senior setter Melanie Stutsman set the WKU record for assists in a career, and senior defensive specialist Ashley Potts broke WKU’s all-time record career digs.

Stutsman was also named the Sun Belt Conference Setter of the Year and to first team All-Conference. Potts, meanwhile, was the Sun Belt’s Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the All-Conference second team.

Senior outside hitter Paige Wessel and sophomore middle hitter Noelle Langenkamp were also named to the All-Conference first team. Junior middle hitter Heather Boyan was named to the second team All-Conference while Hudson was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year for the second straight year and fifth time in his career.

Along with Potts and Stutsman three other seniors — Wessel, outside hitter Janee’ Diggins, middle hitter Lindsay Spears — ended their careers at Troy on Nov. 21.

These five seniors guided WKU to some of the most successful years in school history, compiling a record of 118-23. They made three NCAA Tournaments, helped the school win their first NCAA Tournament game, won three regular season conference titles and two conference tournament crowns.

“The hardest part for me in all of it was basically having to carry Ashley Potts off that court (after the Troy game),” Hudson said. “She collapsed on that floor before she could even shake hands. Seeing that is just devastating for me. I do this for a living. I’ll have more chances. With all those kids accomplished, it’s a tough way for them to go out.

“The sting of that will subside. When you look at the body of work…they’re (the seniors) the envy of almost any college athlete that plays college sports.”

WKU has already signed five players for next year’s team, and the team will be making the switch to Conference USA starting next season.