WKU’s Hudson excited for young, yet experienced team

WKU volleyball coach Travis Hudson only has five upperclassmen on his roster, but he said this year’s team is anything but inexperienced.

Kurt Carson

This year’s WKU volleyball team will look toward

experience and defense to lead them back to an NCAA tournament


Despite boasting just five upperclassmen on the

roster, Lady Toppers Head Coach Travis Hudson said to not let the

youth of this team fool you.

“We only have two seniors on our team this year so we

are a young roster, but we are an experienced roster,” Hudson said.

“A lot of our sophomores started as freshmen.”

Hudson said that experience has been very beneficial

throughout the preseason and has put them ahead of where they were

last year at this time.

One beneficiary has been the ability to place a

bigger emphasis on defense while knowing that an efficient offense

will be much easier to come by. The Lady Toppers finished sixth in

the country in offense last season.

“The big focus for us since the end of last season

has been getting better defensively,” Hudson said. “We’re good

defensively but in those few matches against high-level competition

where we couldn’t get over the hump, it was due to the inability to

stop them more-so than not being able to find offense.”

Senior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore said the team has

really put it on themselves to improve defensively.

“We’ve come together as a team and decided that it’s

going to be a factor in our season this year,” Elmore said. “I’m

really excited about that and it’s something I’m really focused


The Lady Toppers lost outside hitter Emily Teegarden

and defensive specialist Kelly Potts to graduation, but Hudson said

the team returns enough experience that they should be able to

overcome the losses.

“It kind of means some roles shift a little bit,”

Hudson said. “It’s time for some younger players to step in there

and they’re ready, so I feel good about being able to overcome the

loss of those two players.”

Hudson said two seniors — Elmore and middle hitter

Lindsay Williams, as well as two juniors — outside hitter Jordyn

Skinner and defensive specialist Sarah Rogers will be the core

group of leaders on this year’s team.

“I don’t think they’re natural-born leaders, but the

quality that all four of them share is that they’re great kids,”

Hudson said. “They’re hard-working kids and they want to do what’s

best for the program.”

Skinner said it’s been more difficult for her to

embrace the leadership role than others because she’s not the type

to be vocal on the court.

“I think I’ve learned that it’s not only about being

vocal but being accountable every practice and bringing my all,”

Skinner said. “I think I’ve grown to be a leader knowing that they

can count on me to do my part.”

The Sun Belt Conference announced Wednesday morning

both Elmore and Skinner, along with sophomore setter Melanie

Stutsman, had been named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference


One player Hudson said fans will really see come on

this year and make an impact is sophomore outside hitter Janee’


“Janee’ is a terrific athlete,” Hudson said. “She was

not an overly skilled or experienced player when she came here, so

last year was a huge learning curve for her. Throughout the spring

and preseason, the game continues to slow down for her a bit and

you start to see her make more and more of an impact.”

Hudson said he knows there will be times when Diggins

won’t be ready to handle what they’re facing, but added that there

will also be times when she’s the “best kid on the floor.”

Elmore said she has also seen great things from

Diggins in preseason practices.

“She has become one of those players who can rise up

and almost carry you,” Elmore said. “Janee’, by growing as a player

and recognizing situations, has made a big improvement. “

Hudson said it’s those pieces to the puzzle that make

the ceiling for this team quite high.

“I think a lot of the pieces that make up good teams

are in place,” Hudson said. “But teams are tested on the court on

game day and it still remains to be seen how this team approaches

the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Lady Toppers will have their first test on Friday

night when they take on Sacramento State in their season-opener at

the Belmont Invitaitional. They’ll follow that up with two games on

Saturday — one against Belmont and another against Murray


The Sun Belt Conference released its preseason

coaches’ poll Wednesday, in which WKU tied Middle Tennessee for

first-place in the east division with six first-place votes. 

Hudson said that’s a testament to the caliber of

players in the Lady Toppers program.

“Middle Tennessee is a team that went to the NCAA’s,

won the regular season, won the conference tournament and beat us

three times last year, yet only graduated one kid,” Hudson said.

“For half our league to think that we are going to be the

conference champion I think is a real statement to the level of

kids we have in our program.”

Hudson said he knows this team is capable of getting

back to the NCAA tournament.

Last year’s motto for the team was “believe.” 

However, Hudson said there is “no running and hiding” from the fact

that they are talented enough.

That’s why they have chosen “fearless” as this year’s


“When we step out there against high-level teams we

want to step out with a fearless mentality because we know we can

compete with those teams,” Hudson said. “Now the question remains

will we be tough enough, resilient enough, fearless enough on game

day to find a way to win and that’s what ultimately will decide our