Family atmosphere surrounds WKU volleyball

WKU volleyball players Ashley Potts, Rachel Engle, and Melanie Stutsman all have something in common. Potts and Stutsman grew up together and Potts and Engle are cousins and now they are on the same team at WKU.

Elliott Pratt

Most athletes spend more time with their teammates than any other group of people.

Between practice and road games, student athletes make their teammates their new family.  

In the case of WKU volleyball, the family roots run deep.

Starting from the top, Kelly Potts came to WKU in 2006 as a defensive specialist.  

Her little sister, Ashley Potts, is currently the Lady Toppers’ junior defensive specialist. The two are the only siblings to ever play for coach Travis Hudson in the same year –– 2010.

“Knowing that Kelly was here and loved it was my biggest influence in coming here,” Potts said. “I got to know Travis when I was 9 because she was going through the recruiting process.

“She would always talk to me about how great it was and I wanted to be just like her, so I came here.”

Ashley Potts and junior setter Melanie Stutsman have a friendship dating back to their toddler years. While their parents played in an adult volleyball league, Potts and Stutsman were always there together.  

Potts and Stutsman, along with senior Sarah Rogers, later played together for the Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Academy (KIVA).  

While Potts committed to WKU early as a sophomore at Louisville Sacred Heart Academy, Stutsman committed as a junior from Floyd Central (Indiana) High School.  

“I was really excited just knowing that I would have someone to connect to,” Potts said. “We became roommates freshman year and we’re still roommates today.”

Stutsman said it wasn’t only Potts who made her feel comfortable coming to WKU.

“I was new here, so she played a factor in it,” Stutsman said. “I also knew Sarah Rogers from the same club, Paige (Wessel) was from a competing club, so I knew a lot of people here.”

Also hailing from Floyd Central is freshman Rachel Engle, a teammate of Stutsman and Potts’ cousin.

Engle spent her high school years watching her cousins, Kelly and Ashley Potts, play in Diddle Arena and knew in her heart that she wanted to play for WKU.

Engle’s decision to come to WKU was much like Kelly Potts’ influence on Ashley.

“Ashley was always telling me how great it was and I knew Kelly had an awesome experience here,” Engle said. “It was just one of those things that kind of ran in the family, and I just wanted to keep it going.

“It was also a great opportunity to play ball with my cousin, something I’ve never gotten to do.”

The lineage of Lady Toppers doesn’t appear to be stopping with Engle.

Her little sister, Floyd Central junior Sydney Engle, has committed to join the Lady Toppers in 2014.  

Players said the personal connections that run through the volleyball program make the team experience special.

“With Travis and (assistant coach) Kristi (Griffin), we can come to them with anything,” Engle said. “Even if it’s not volleyball or school related, anything we want to talk about, they’re there.”

Stutsman reiterated the team’s close ties.

“Western Kentucky volleyball isn’t just a program, we’re a giant family,” Stutsman said. “We see each other as sisters.  

“The way we act around each other is ridiculous. If people really saw how we were they would think we’re really weird. But that’s the way a family is. You can be your complete self around them and they’re going to love you no matter what.”