NEW ORLEANS—Sun Belt Conference coaches have picked the Western Kentucky University volleyball team to finish first in the SBC East Division and named senior Jordyn Skinner along with juniors Ashley Potts and Melanie Stutsman to its preseason all-conference team, the league announced Thursday morning.
Skinner was also chosen as the Preseason Player of the Year while Potts was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Each was chosen as the SBC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season, respectively.
The Lady Toppers received 63 points and eight first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and are ready to begin the 2012 season on Friday, August 24 at Louisville.
Middle Tennessee follows with 56 points and two first-place votes with FIU in third with 43 points and one first-place vote. South Alabama (31), Troy (22) and Florida Atlantic (16) round out the East’s top six.
In the West Division, North Texas leads the way with 45 points and six first-place votes. Arkansas State comes in second with 43 points and UALR in third with 38 points, as each received two first-place votes. Louisiana-Lafayette collected 23 points and one first-place vote while Louisiana-Monroe finished with 16.
It marks the second year in a row that Skinner and Stutsman are named to the preseason team while Potts is making her first appearance. The trio was named to the 2011 All-SBC Team while Skinner and Stutsman were also named AVCA All-Americans and All-South Region.
Skinner, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., earned 2011 SBC Player of the Year honors after ranking second in the league in kills (454), digs (407) and service aces (37). She was also named Most Outstanding Player at the SBC Championships, Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week and CVU.com National Player of the Week. She tallied 21 double-doubles last season and had 30 matches with double-digit kills and 24 with double-digit digs.
Potts, from Louisville, Ky., started 35 matches at libero, as she led WKU and ranked third in the league with 511 digs, which also ranks as the seventh most in school history for digs in a season. Potts tallied double-digit digs in 29 matches, including eight with 20 or more while recording a season and career-high 25 digs against Belmont and Arkansas-Little Rock. She earned Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week twice last season and was tabbed as the MVP of the Belmont Invitational.
A junior setter from Floyds Knobs, Ind., Stutsman earned her numerous honors in 2011 after setting WKU to a .272 hitting percentage, which ranked ninth in the nation. She dished out 1,324 assists for an average of 11.13 per set, which topped the conference and placed 30th in the nation. Stutsman earned AVCA All-American honors the past two seasons and was named the American Classic Most Valuable Player.
The WKU volleyball team begins the regular season with a 6:30 p.m. CT showdown Friday against Louisville at the Active Ankle Challenge in Louisville, Ky. WKU will also face No. 3 Penn State and Morehead State in the two-day tournament