LEXINGTON, Ky. - For the first time in program history, the Western Kentucky University volleyball team opens the 2013 season ranked among the top 25 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top 25 Preseason Poll, as the Lady Toppers were voted to begin the upcoming campaign at No. 21.
The ranking marks the first time in the program’s 32-year history that the Lady Toppers are in the preseason top 25, as the team shatters last season’s preseason start of No. 33. It is the third time that WKU is in the organization’s preseason ranking after the team’s initial appearance came in 2006 at No. 44. WKU is also the only Sun Belt Conference school in the poll.
“It’s an honor to be looked at by your peers as a nationally-recognized program,” WKU head coach Travis Hudson said. “It says a lot about your program in general. We worked hard to gain respect nationally. Now we just have to go out and prove that we deserve it.”
WKU is scheduled to play five teams featured in the poll, including one in the top five, within the first month of the season. Southern California highlights WKU’s slate at No. 4 while Purdue ranks No. 16, Florida State No. 18, Dayton No. 22 and Ohio State No. 23. WKU faced Dayton and Ohio State last season, defeating the then-No. 10 Flyers 3-1 before falling to the Buckeyes 1-3 in the WKU Invitational.
The Lady Toppers entered the top 25 for the first time in school history in 2011, but made their name a mainstay in the 2012 campaign with 11-consecutive weeks in the top 25 and its highest ranking coming at No. 17.
WKU finished last season at No. 21, the first time ever in the AVCA final poll, with a 33-4 record overall and 15-0 mark in the Sun Belt while claiming the regular-season and tournament titles for a second-straight year. Earning the way to its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last six years and seventh in program history, WKU broke through to win its first NCAA Tournament match with a straight-set sweep over Loyola Marymount.
Preseason practice is underway for WKU, as 10 letterwinners return to the 2013 squad, including three-time AVCA All-American Melanie Stutsman and two-time SBC Defensive Player of the Year Ashley Potts, along with two newcomers to The Hill. WKU opens the season on Friday, August 30 in the Mortar Board Invitational against Alabama A&M before facing host Purdue and USC on Saturday, August 31.