Lady Toppers look back on historic 2011 campaign


Christian Randolph

Head Coach Travis Hudson and the WKU volleyball team return every player except for Lindsay Williams and Tiffany Elmore, who are lost to graduation.

Lucas Aulbach

An early exit from the NCAA Tournament hasn’t changed Head Coach Travis Hudson’s thoughts on a historic season for the WKU volleyball program.

“My disappointment just comes from not being in the gym with them every day at this point,” he said. “You can’t always control outcomes, but you can control how you go about your business and how you represent yourself and your school. 

“I really enjoyed coaching this team, and it was probably the easiest group to work with that I’ve had in 17 years.”

Hudson has a lot to celebrate. 

The Lady Toppers recorded 31 wins this season, won the Sun Belt Conference regular-season and tournament titles and were ranked in the Top 25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll for the first time in school history, rising as high as No. 24 in the country.

Several Lady Toppers were recognized regionally and nationally throughout the season as well. 

Five Lady Toppers were elected to the all-Sun Belt First and Second teams, junior outside hitter Jordyn Skinner was named Sun Belt Player of the Year, sophomore defensive specialist Ashley Potts was awarded Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, and Skinner and sophomore setter Melanie Stutsman were elected to the AVCA All-South region first-team.

Senior middle hitter Lindsay Williams said the team’s success was due to strong unity between the Lady Toppers.

“All of us just meshed so well,” she said. “It was so different than all of the other teams I’ve been on here because we felt like we were a special team. It wasn’t people telling us we were special. We could all just sort of feel it.”

Williams, along with senior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore, played her last match for WKU in Champaign, Ill., in the NCAA Tournament.

Williams said she has no regrets about her decision to come to WKU after high school.

“Coming to Western was the best choice for me because they put an emphasis on family,” she said. “We all wanted to win, but it was nice just being on a team where everybody is so close.”

The list of accomplishments by the two seniors in their time at WKU includes over 100 total wins, three NCAA Tournament appearances and a sweep of the Sun Belt this season.

Hudson said they can leave the team knowing they’ve left their mark on the program.

“I can’t imagine that kids could want more out of their careers than those two got — and they can walk away with their heads held high,” he said.

The departure of the two middle hitters leaves a hole in the starting lineup next season. Freshman middle hitter Heather Boyan, who saw some playing time this season, expects to be pick up some of their minutes next season.

“Since they’re leaving, I expect to have a bigger role on the team and to hopefully take over what they started as middles,” Boyan said. “They taught me a lot this year, so that should help.”

Boyan and the returning Lady Toppers will be helped by an incoming class of three recruits who should see time on the court next season.

Hudson said he hopes teams at WKU in the future can learn from the example set by the Lady Toppers this season.

“This is the most special team we’ve had in terms of intangibles, in terms of togetherness and in terms of character, and that’s what allowed us to achieve at a level that hasn’t been seen here,” he said. “I hope that’s a real learning point for our teams moving forward.”