Runner-up finish doesn’t define grit and strength the WTAMU Lady Buffs showed in 2023

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The West Texas A&M Lady Buffs finished as the NCAA Division II national runner-up on Saturday in Moon Township, Penn. The Lady Buffs ended the season with 33 wins. [Joe Garcia III/ Press Pass Sports]
The West Texas A&M Lady Buffs fell one match short of repeating as NCAA Division II national champions falling to Cal State LA during Saturday’s championship game in four-sets (23-25, 16-25, 25-22, 14-25) at the UPMC Events Center.

The runner-up finish is far from the story of what this Lady Buff team achieved in 2023 and by far will not define another incredible season.

Head coach Kendra Potts even showed how proud she was by immediately taking to her X account to post.

“We fought all year long,” Potts said on her social media account. “They (this team) taught me more about strength and finding joy in hard times. Thank you #BUFFnation for your support. I’ve got nothing but gratitude for getting to be a part of another incredible season.”

Though disappointed at the result of Saturday’s match, does that sound like a coach that expected any more from her team?

Winning is the hardest thing to do in all of sports and at the end of the season the Lady Buffs are winners. WTAMU was definitely the talk of the Elite Eight Tournament playing one of the most incredible matches in college volleyball history winning an epic five-set thriller over No. 1-ranked Tampa in Friday’s semifinals.

Very reminiscent of their NCAA Division II South Central Regional championship against MSU-Denver, WTAMU never knew when to quit. Even when things didn’t go the Lady Buffs way.

With their backs against the wall, WTAMU battled back for one of the biggest comebacks in school history. Trailing 17-9 in the fourth set, the Lady Buffs showed that true resilience and grit to rally for a 25-24 lead. With the two ruling in place, this match went back and forth for another 10 points before WTAMU finally forced a fifth set with an incredible 36-34 win that left fans breathless.

The fifth set once again saw WTAMU in a hole down 14-12 only for this cardiac team to go off on a four-point run to down the Spartans 16-14 to advance to Saturday’s championship.

That match right there against Tampa is one WTAMU can hang its season on and know that is the match that defines the grit they define themselves by. In a postgame press conference on Saturday, Potts, who has brought the Lady Buffs back to the prominence of their glory days, said her tears following the runner-up finish weren’t tears of sadness.

“The relationships we have are so much more than volleyball,” Potts said. “These tears I have now isn’t because we lost. It’s because I’m sad it’s over. I want to keep hanging out with this team. We had a huge target that we created, and we embraced that. We got everyone’s best game, and it was a challenging year and this team got me through it. I coach some incredible young women that teach me more than I teach them. But these are tears of joy.”

WTAMU and head coach Kendra Potts had a perfect home record of 18-0 this season. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]
The Lady Buffs won 33 games this season, won their 18th Lone Star Conference Tournament and went unbeaten in “The Box” at 18-0. WTAMU placed five players as NCAA All-Americans – Torrey Miller, Emma Becker, Carly Evetts, Bryli Contreras and Taytum Stow.

This team was full of friendships and outstanding chemistry. Anyone who was in attendance was probably baffled by all the dance breaks on the sideline during a timeout. That’s just the closeness of this Lady Buff team.

The Lady Buffs saw a loyal fanbase leave their mark especially during the South Central Regional final at home where they packed “The Box” with 1,658 fans. That was the second largest crowd in the historic buildings’ history. Personally, I’ve never seen more interaction on social media from a passionate fanbase during the Lady Buffs run at the Elite Eight over the past three days.

Now for a couple of shoutouts. Senior Torrey Miller. What can you say about Miller. Easily one of the greatest to ever wear a Lady Buff uniform. Miller, last year’s NCAA Elite Eight MVP, finished her senior year 10 kills shy of 2,000. How about local product Bryli Contreras. The Canyon graduate and Stephen F. Austin State transfer ended her season with over 1,000 digs. Another Canyon grad, Carley Evetts had to sit out all of last year after transferring. However, this season was one of the key middle blockers and leaders for this Lady Buff squad.

Now let’s talk coach Potts. Wow. Has Potts been one of the best hires in the Michael McBroom era? In five seasons, the Amarillo High and WTAMU Alum, has put together back-to-back 30 plus win seasons. Potts has taken the Lady Buffs to three straight Elite Eights, won the program’s fourth national title in 2022, and has an elite record of 124-24.

Like I’ve already said, it may not show in the record books in 2023, but the Lady Buffs are champions in every definition of the word. Tip of the cap, ladies. We can’t wait to see what 2024 holds.

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