Coming off the heels of a trip to their 14th NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament appearance in school history, the West Texas A&M volleyball team is wanting nothing more than to carry that momentum into a highly anticipated 2022 season.
For the first time in six years, the Lady Buffs enter the year ranked following the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) NCAA Division II Preseason Poll announcement on Wednesday. WT came in at No. 14 in the poll.
The defending South Central Regional Champion Lady Buffs were also picked as the preseason favorite to win the Lone Star Conference picking up 21 of the 44 possible first-place votes.
“We talked about the rankings as a team this week,” said Potts, who is 58-16 entering her fourth season at WT. “We look at it as a thumbs up and it’s nice to have that respect from the conference, but we haven’t done anything yet. We just can’t wait to get started and show what we’re made of this season.”
On top of the impressive preseason marks, a pair of Lady Buffs were recognized with preseason accolades. Junior outside hitter Torrey Miller was named as the LSC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while sophomore Blair Moreland earned Preseason Setter of the Year honors.
Miller, the reigning LSC Offensive Player of the Year and All-American honorable mention, had a tremendous impact in 2021 tallying a conference-best 455 kills, adding 283 digs.
“Torrey is a very talented player,” Potts said. “She’s one of the hardest workers which makes it even better. She’s one of the leaders that doesn’t skip a day. She was here all summer. I feel like that’s the biggest growth about her. She is always doing her part.”
Besides Miller, Potts has worked hard to build depth throughout the WT roster. During the offseason Potts and her staff have stacked players at each position.
“We have built a team that will compete,” Potts said. “We will be a team that’s very gritty. I feel the depth on this team gives us so many options. We had an intersquad scrimmage recently and it was amazing to see us compete at such a high level. Both teams were equally matched and that shows the depth we’ve been able to bring in. It was very good to see how many options we’re going to have this season.”
Potts has also continued to build her program from the best the Texas Panhandle has to offer. Highland Park graduate, and sophomore defensive specialist, Emma Patterson returns, as does sophomore outside hitter, and Amarillo High graduate, Ashlyn Vinyard. Add in Stephen F. Austin State transfer and Canyon graduate, Bryli Contreras, Amarillo High grad and Tyler Junior College transfer, Piper Warren, on top of freshman Jaycee Adams from Bushland, and four-time All-State middle blocker Taytum Stow from Hereford, and the Amarillo-area is well represented.
“I grew up here, and I know how good volleyball is in the Texas Panhandle,” Potts said. “We love having these girls sign to play for us and stay at home. Players like Bryli (Contreras) transferring in can now play in front of her family and make up a very good defensive unit for us. Taytum is 6-foot-3, and I don’t think she knows how good she’s going to be yet. So we just love having all the local talent stay home and be a part of the Lady Buff tradition.”
WT opens the season hosting the Britkare Lady Buff Classic on Aug 26-27.