WKU volleyball’s defense keeps team believing

Emily Patton

Head Coach Travis Hudson has been waiting a long time, but that’s all over now. 

Hudson, in his 16th season of coaching volleyball at WKU, saw his wait for a team as talented as this year’s squad finally end as the Lady Toppers went 3-0 and won the Xavier Invitational in Cincinnati last weekend.

“I’ve had a strong belief all along in this team, and they are starting to believe now too,” Hudson said.

WKU (5-2) claimed wins against Northeastern and IPFW before facing top-ranked tournament host Xavier in Saturday’s final game.

The two teams split the first sets as the WKU offense struggled, but it was then that the Lady Toppers’ defense stepped up to defeat the Musketeers, 3-1 (25-18, 18-25, 25-12, 25-21), and claimed the tournament title.  

“We split the first two games with (Xavier), and it kind of got us rattled a bit,” Hudson said. “Offensively, we were just OK, but we just wouldn’t quit. We just kept coming after them.”

Hudson, who has been stressing both defense and believing to his team, said he finally saw those things being achieved over the weekend.  

While the WKU offense has carried the team for the past two weeks, the defense took its turn for a combined 69 digs and 13 blocks against Xavier. 

Three WKU players were named to the all-tournament team because of defense, including junior middle hitter Tiffany Elmore, sophomore outside hitter Jordyn Skinner and freshman setter Melanie Stutsman. 

“Our defense was there this weekend,” Elmore said. “Blocks, we were up in our numbers. We were there with digs. If I miss a block, behind me you have girls like Kelly and Ashley Potts flying around that are hitting balls that I didn’t realize were possible to get.” 

Both Elmore, the tournament’s most valuable player, and senior defensive specialist Kelly Potts said the weekend served as a confidence boost in WKU’s defending abilities. 

“The defense has been our main focus for the entire preseason, and now we’re seeing it finally come along,” Potts said. “It’s like a domino effect. When one person gets that hit, we know we can get the next one too. It’s so much fun because that’s the spark that gets the whole team going.” 

That spark is one that Potts, who was a redshirt freshman in 2006, said will keep the Lady Toppers “believing” when they play at home for the first time this season in the WKU Tournament.

The Lady Toppers play host to Virginia Tech and Missouri on Friday before concluding the tournament against Tennessee Tech and Central Arkansas on Saturday.

“Travis has been saying all along that this team is special, and I’m starting to realize that,” Potts said. “I’ve been a part of the WKU volleyball program for five years now, and this team is nothing like any other team I have been a part of. We have everything that is needed, and slowly we are starting to put it all together.”