Potts leading WKU’s defense

Sophomore defensive specialist Kelly Potts, the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week, has the WKU volleyball team off to a 6-1 start this season. Potts came to WKU for many reasons, among them to play with her sister, Kelly Potts, last year as a freshman.

Lucas Aulbach

Sophomore defensive specialist Ashley Potts liked everything she saw when she first visited WKU, but one factor in particular helped Potts make up her mind to play volleyball on the Hill.

That one thing? Big Red. 

Potts’ older sister Kelly Potts, who played for WKU through last season, said Ashley Potts is “obsessed” with Big Red. But Head Coach Travis Hudson said no matter what got Ashley Potts to WKU, he’s happy she’s here.

“I coached her older sister Kelly, who was a really good player for us here, so I’ve known Ashley since she was a young girl,” Hudson said. “Her talent has always been obvious to me. I knew she would be great for the team.”

In the first weeks of the season, Ashley Potts has been just that — great. The sophomore was recently awarded Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week and is averaging 5.13 digs-per-set, which is second in the Sun Belt.

Hudson credits Ashley Potts’ improvement to hard work in the preseason, when she earned the starting job at libero.

“We did a lot of stuff technique-wise this summer,” he said. “We spent a lot of time just trying to improve her balance and improve her footwork.”

Sophomore setter Melanie Stutsman, Ashley Potts’ roommate, said her hard work throughout the preseason was easy to see.

“During the spring season she worked as hard as she could every day,” Stutsman said. “You could tell she was always trying to get better. She went out there every day and worked her hardest, and it paid off because now she’s so good.”

Ashley Potts said her work this offseason started well before the preseason.

“We’ve been working on certain things defensively since we started practicing in February,” she said. “We just worked on it like ten times harder over the preseason.”

Her hard work has paid off so far. The Lady Toppers have started the season 6-1, thanks in large part to her defensive play.

“Ashley is one of the best kids I’ve ever coached. She’s great,” Hudson said. “Other kids take breaks. They get tired. But this kid just has a great will to keep going.”

One thing Ashley Potts has is experience. She said she’s been playing volleyball since she was 5 years old. Ashley Potts followed her sister’s footsteps and joined a competitive club team at age 11, where she played for seven years.

“Our club team was close with a lot of college coaches, so Travis was already seeing her potential when she was like 11 or 12,” Kelly Potts said.

By Ashley Potts’ sophomore year at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, she had already been offered a scholarship from WKU. Potts said her relationship with Hudson goes beyond the volleyball court.

“He’s more than just a coach. He’s like my second dad,” she said. “He’s always there for me no matter what.”

Ashley Potts and her sister were able to play together for just one year — last season — because Kelly Potts redshirted at WKU.

“She always wanted to play with me, but with the four-year difference, we never really had the chance,” Kelly Potts said. “Once I redshirted a year and she saw that we could have that opportunity, I think it really helped her make up her mind to come to WKU.”

Kelly Potts is now working toward her masters at the University of Louisville, but Ashley Potts said the two still talk often.

“We still haven’t gone two weeks without seeing each other,” Ashley Potts said. “I still talk to her every day.”

Kelly Potts was in Lexington last weekend and was able to see her younger sister in action for the first time this season.

“It just blew my mind seeing where she is now compared to where she was this time last year,” Kelly Potts said. “It’s hard to believe she’s only a sophomore. This is just the beginning for her.”