WKU volleyball looks to reload for 2012

Lucas Aulbach

A tough NCAA Tournament loss on Friday night ended the 2011 season for the Lady Toppers, but their roster looks geared for another run next season.

WKU is graduating just two seniors, middle hitters Tiffany Elmore and Lindsay Williams, from its 12-player roster. 

Sophomore defensive specialist Ashley Potts said the seniors were a big part of the success the team enjoyed this season.

“They were huge for us,” she said. “They kept us in line and they were definitely leaders for us on the court all year.”

Despite being a part of a 31-4 season, one of the most successful in school history, Elmore said the Lady Toppers never looked past their next match.

“We just took it one match at a time and we ended up at 31-4,” she said. “At the beginning of the year I couldn’t have guessed we’d finish with all those wins but we worked hard all year for that record.”

Returning players in 2012 include Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year Potts, junior outside hitter, team kills leader and Sun Belt Player of the Year Jordyn Skinner and sophomore setter Melanie Stutsman, who led the league in assists.

The Lady Toppers hope that underclassmen and incoming players can fill the hole in the middle left by the departure of Williams and Elmore.

Stutsman said that role could fall on the shoulders of freshman Heather Boyan and incoming freshman Noelle Langenkamp, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter from Cincinnati.

“Heather should improve a lot before next season and coming in, Noelle should help us a lot too,” Stutsman said.

Boyan took advantage of the playing time she saw behind Elmore and Williams, recording 30 kills and 24 blocks in the 41 sets she played in this season. Langenkamp owns her school’s career record for blocks as well as single-game records for kills and blocks.

Elmore said she thinks next year’s team could be the one to get the first postseason win in WKU history.

“I can’t wait to watch them,” she said. “I keep telling them that they’re only losing two people. It’s still going to be a together team. It’s going to be exciting and a lot like this season.”

The Lady Toppers can certainly hope next season’s record is a lot like this season’s. 

WKU ended the season as regular season and conference tournament champions in the Sun Belt, with just one home loss and one conference loss.

The Lady Toppers had five players named to the all-Sun Belt first and second teams this year and reached the Top 25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll of the first time in school history, being ranked No. 24 in the country coming into the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ll still look at this as a great season,” Stutsman said. “It was an upsetting loss, but it doesn’t change any of what we were able to do this year.”