Potts looks to defend preseason hype

Lucas Aulbach

One of the smallest Lady Topper volleyball players could have the biggest impact on the team’s results this season.

Defensive specialist Ashley Potts has been a key player for the Lady Toppers since she first set foot on the court in 2010 and has since become one of the most respected players in the conference. The 5-foot-4-inch senior has earned two Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards and was given the preseason conference Defensive Player of the Year award earlier this month.

Coach Travis Hudson said one of her biggest strengths is her consistency — he knows she is going to give an effort worthy of Defensive Player of the Year every time she steps on the court.

“Ashley Potts is a kid that’ll calm those nerves in a coach,” Hudson said at Tuesday’s Media Day. “She is a terrifically talented kid, there’s no question. Two-time defensive player of the year and she’s a supremely talented player on the court.

“What you love about her as a coach more than anything else is you know what you’re getting every night. You know that she’s going to be there emotionally, you know that she’s going to be there in terms of competitiveness and obviously the skill is there and she knows what she needs to do as a player.”

Potts has been a part of the WKU volleyball program for a long time. She watched her older sister Kelly Potts play a big role for the team before she graduated in 2010. The sisters played one season together for WKU in Ashley’s freshman year.

Potts will look to defend her Defensive Player of the Year crown this weekend, as the season will open with a series of three matches in West Lafayette, Ind., this weekend.

She said she wants to back up earning the preseason award with strong play on the court.

“I guess it’s more of an honor than anything just to be recognized for what I do,” Potts said. “Now I just have to go prove myself and show that I am a competitor for that. We’ll just see how it goes at the end of the year.”

Potts, a three-year starter, will be joined in the lineup by redshirt senior outside hitter Paige Wessel.

Wessel has been with the team since before Potts joined in 2010. She said the defensive specialist brings reliability in the back row, which helps her make plays at the net.

“On the court, she’s the most intense person I’ve ever played with my entire life. She’s always talking, and I can always count on her to be behind me. Like, if I’m setting up a block, I can always count on her to be right behind me. When I go up to swing at a ball, she’s always right there covering me, so I have a lot of trust and faith in her always.”

Potts and the Lady Toppers haven’t played a regular season game since the team fell to Stanford in the NCAA Tournament in December.

She said she’s tired of practicing against her teammates — she’s ready for the season to start.

“We get after it each day and it’s really fun, actually,” Potts said. “I love having the competition behind me, because our ball-control players are really good this year. I just love the competition that we have each day in the gym.”