Paige Wessel having breakout year for WKU

WKU volleyball won 3-0 against Troy at Diddle Arena on Friday Sept. 21, 2012.

Tyler Lashbrook

When fans think of WKU volleyball, three names usually come to mind — Jordyn Skinner, Melanie Stutsman and Ashley Potts.

Skinner is the front runner for Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Stutsman plays the set up and runs the show for the offense with her ability to assist near 11 times a set. Potts is the defensive force who averages 4.63 digs per set.

Somewhere often lost in the mix is redshirt junior Paige Wessel.

Wessel is an athletic, powerful offensive player who excels at the net.

Sophomore Heather Boyan said everyone on the team thinks of Wessel as a great player and leader.

“Looking at her, you wouldn’t think she’d be able to get up there and hit the ball as hard as she does,” Boyan said. “But she gets up there and just hammers the ball.”

On Sept. 10, the former (Louisville) Mercy Academy standout was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week for her efforts in leading the Lady Toppers at the WKU Tournament.

That’s when the rest of the conference began to take notice of just how dominant an offensive player she can be.

Wessel leads the Lady Toppers and the Sun Belt in hitting percentage at a .365 clip.

Coach Travis Hudson is excited to have Wessel attract attention on the court.

“It allows us to be balanced,” Hudson said. “She’s really taken a big role in terms of carrying this team offensively.”

Wessel came to WKU in 2009 but was medically redshirted after shattering her finger during winter break.

An injury can be devastating to one’s career, but for Wessel, it may have come as a blessing in disguise.

She was able to practice all year with the team once she recovered from surgery and in that year was able to grow as a player.

Senior Sarah Rogers was in Wessel’s recruiting class and thinks the redshirt helps by giving her an extra year on the court.

“Her freshman year, we didn’t really need her as much,” Rogers said. “Now she’s just awesome, and she has another year left, and she’s going to be great.”

Hudson said Wessel has become a much smarter player since the finger injury.

“For every great play she would make, she would mix in a bad one,” Hudson said. “And she’s just so much more mature now and takes care of the ball better.”

Hudson is pretty vocal when it comes to coaching Wessel but said Wessel handles the coaching well.

“I’m on her a lot, but it’s because I think she’s so gifted,” Hudson said. “And she’s just a great kid that I know she’ll always receive it the right way and go out and be better.”

Wessel understands Hudson’s methods.

“When I mess up a play he always critiques me, but it’s good criticism. So I take it in a good way and come out and just try to perform.”