The word ‘young’ is one that Head Coach Travis Hudson can’t escape — nor wants to.
Only a few games into the season, all four of the Lady Toppers’ freshmen have already seen action. Two of them, defensive specialist Ashley Potts and setter Melanie Stutsman, are regular starters.
“You know, the freshmen are one of the highlights about this team,” Hudson said. “All four of our freshmen have played really, really well. We are excited about the progress they’ve made in the last couple weeks.”
But what has surprised Hudson the most is the talent that comes with the youth.
Stutsman showed her talent by making an immediate impact in her first collegiate game, earning six kills, 22 assists and a team-high .417 hitting percentage against Purdue in the Mortar Board Premier.
After the weekend in West Lafayette, Ind., Stutsman was named to the all-tournament team. The freshman setter appeared in all 10 sets for WKU with 8.4 assists per set, 14 kills, 22 digs and four aces.
“I was nervous at first, but seeing how well we are playing with all these young players, it really excites me,” Stutsman said. “It can only get better.”
Potts is also a talent to watch, Hudson said.
The defensive specialist is the younger sister of senior defensive specialist Kelly Potts and is no stranger to high-level play. She led Louisville’s Sacred Heart Academy to the Kentucky State Tournament in 2009.
“I’ve always been the one with pressure, being the younger sister and now being the freshman,” Potts said. “But the team has really welcomed me, and there is no pressure at all.”
While both Potts and Stutsman started last weekend, Hudson also relied on freshmen middle hitters Janee’ Diggins and Lindsay Spears to fill an empty outsider hitter position on the floor when sophomore Jordyn Skinner was injured.
“Neither of those girls are outside hitters,” Hudson said. “We are trying to plug holes a little bit, and we are taking the combination of both of them. It’s a good group we have, and I’m excited to move forward.”
WKU will next play Northeastern at 3 p.m. Friday. The Lady Toppers face off against Indiana University, Purdue University Fort Wayne and Xavier on Saturday at the Xavier Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hudson said there are no worries about the freshmen who will line the floor this weekend.
“I looked at one point last weekend, and we were playing Northern Iowa, who’s the 24th-ranked team in the country,” he said. “We had a freshman setter, setting the freshmen hitters, all at the same time playing really well. We are just going to take a little time to put it all together.”