2013 VBM Girls' Fab 50

Carlini, Hughes, and Dykstra are some of the best high school volleyball players in the country and our three featured athletes.

BreElle Bailey
Height: 6'4"
Position: MB
High School: Lehi (Utah)
Club: Club Utah
College: Arizona State

Denise Belcher
Height: 5'11"
Position: OH
High School: Apopka (Fla.)
Club: OVA
College: Florida

Tori Blake
Height: 6'2"
Position: MB
High School: Midland (Mich.)
Club: MVA
College: Wisconsin

Ciara Capezio
Height: 6'2"
Position: OH
High School: Burlington (Wis.)
Club: Fusion
College: Minnesota

*Featured Athlete*
Lauren Carlini
Height: 6'2"
Position: S/RS
High School: West Aurora (Ill.)
Club: Sports Performance
College: Wisconsin

Mizuno Sports Performance club director Rick Butler has seen a lot of topflight volleyball talent go through his doors the past three decades. So when Butler offers the high praise he does regarding West Aurora High School (West Aurora, Ill.) senior setter/right side hitter Lauren Carlini, that’s saying something.

“As a junior-level volleyball player, I don’t think I’ve seen a better player,” Butler says. “Lauren has great skill in all areas. She fits into the category of all the great players I’ve seen along the years. She’s worked hard for it and she deserves everything she has.”

Carlini is regarded as the top pick in this year’s recruiting class. During the 2012 high school season Carlini racked up 333 kills (hitting .462), 303 assists, and 156 digs en route to helping West Aurora win 32 games and a regional championship. A 2012 Volleyball Girls’ High School All-American first-team selection, she was also recognized not only as the Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year, but also the Gatorade National Player of the Year. April Ross, a 2012 Olympian, delivered the national Gatorade trophy to Carlini at West Aurora.

“She has elite-level skill,” Butler says. “She is complete in every area. There isn’t anything she can’t do at a high level. Her skills have come along in all areas. She has a real chance to be great at the next level and after college.”

Carlini has been in the Sports Performance program for 11 years, and her mother Gale played at Appalachian State. “I used to go with her to her adult leagues. I’ve had a ball in my hands since I was three. It was easy to adapt to it,” says Carlini.

She says her time at Sports Performance, located in the western Chicago suburb of Aurora, has been invaluable.

“I love that it’s structured every day,” she says. “No matter what, you are getting the best training in the country. The girls around you work hard every day to get better. The girls here are relentless in working. You have to compare yourself against those people because they will go on to play Division I volleyball. It’s a great practice environment.”

The young athlete can’t point to one specific skill she has improved at over the last 12 months. Rather, she notes she’s worked hard at taking the next step as a leader.

“It’s mostly been leadership and the way I react to people,” she says. “I used to not be a very good teammate. I was all about myself. I learned in order to be successful you have to work as a team no matter what. This is not an individual sport. I definitely learned to rely on my teammates. I’m proud of myself for how much I’ve improved on that. I try and work to be a better teammate every day.”

What Carlini certainly does not lack is a passion for the game.

“I love the sport of volleyball,” she says. “I don’t know what I would do without it. To be successful and to be the player I want to be, you have to be passionate and you have to bring the fire. You have to have fun as well. My favorite thing to do is compete.”

Carlini also cites her training as both a hitter and setter at Sports Performance for greatly aiding her development.

“Being able to practice every skill really helps,” she says. “I used to play outside hitter and libero when I was younger and eventually was a setter and right side and then I developed a specific skill set as a setter. I’ve had very well-rounded training.”

Her skills will take her to DI Wisconsin next year. With a 3.73 grade-point average, Carlini says she may pursue a field of study in the business and marketing realm but is still undecided.

“The fan base at Wisconsin is amazing,” she says. “I knew from the beginning it was where I wanted to go.”

West Aurora coach Kari Nicholson has no doubt Carlini will excel at the next level. “I truly believe Lauren will have a great impact at the next level or beyond,” Nicholson says. “She seems to raise the level of play of everyone around her, not by just encouraging and cheering them on, but also by leading by example. She is one of the hardest workers I know.”

In her wildest dreams, Carlini, who led the U.S. girls’ youth national team to a gold medal at the 2011 High Performance Championships (where she was named MVP), couldn’t imagine the amount of notoriety her volleyball accomplishments have brought her.

“I never expected any of this to happen to me,” says Carlini, whose ultimate goal is to play for the U.S. in the Olympics. “I’ve never been one to shoot for awards. I’ve put in a lot of hard work. It’s all been very humbling. I’ve been very blessed.”

Abby Cole
Height: 6'5"
Position: MB
High School: Grand Haven (Mich.)
Club: MVA
College: Michigan

Chloe Collins
Height: 5'7"
Position: S
High School: Cypress
Woods: (Texas)
Club: Houston Juniors
College: Texas

Naya Crittenden
Height 6'2"
Position RS
High School Johansen (Modesto, Calif.)
Club Rage
College Oregon

Carly DeHoog
Height: 6'4"
Position: RS
High School: Ontario Christian (Calif.)
Club: Club West
College: Washington

*Featured Athlete*
Skylar Dykstra
Height: 5'10"
Position: L
High School: Redondo Union (Calif.)
Club: Sports Shack
College: UCLA

Skylar Dykstra has been immersed in volleyball culture her entire life. All four of her older siblings played in college: Jenna at Davidson, Devon at UCLA, Joey at USC, and Lara at Nebraska and now, starting this spring, at Pepperdine. But the accomplishments of her siblings certainly do not overshadow Skylar. Playing for Redondo Union High School, Dykstra led her team to the Southern California Regional Final.

“She was like Mia Hamm,” Dykstra’s Redondo Union coach Tommy Chaffins said to the Daily Breeze,
“the unquestionable leader among many stars.”

Although listed as a libero, the position she will most likely play for UCLA, the 5'10" Dykstra was a standout outside hitter throughout her high school career. This season, she accumulated 403 kills, hitting .295, with 456 digs, 54 aces, and 63 blocks.

While the university recently added a sand program, Dykstra is officially scheduled to play for UCLA’s indoor squad. But her well-rounded abilities would make her a wonderful addition on the sand court. In 2010, she and freshman Michigan libero Tiffany Morales took the gold medal at the AAU Junior National Beach Volleyball Championships. Dykstra begins her time at UCLA in March after graduating early from Redondo, and we’re anxious to see if she’ll take the sand for the Bruins this season.

Claire Felix
Height: 6'5"
Position: MB
High School: Lewis-Palmer (Monument, Colo.)
Club: Colorado Juniors
College: UCLA

Rachel Fortner
Height: 5'11"
Position: S
High School: Saint Henry (Erlanger, Ky.)
Club: Elevation
College: Dayton

Jennie Frager
Height: 6'5"
Position: MB
High School: Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.)
Club: Wave
College: UCLA

Emily Franklin
Height: 6'3"
Position: MB
High School: Red Mountain (Mesa, Ariz.)
Club: Spiral
College: Kentucky

Raina Hembry
Height: 6'3"
Position: MB
High School: Central Catholic (Portland Ore.)
Club: Oregon NW
College: Tennessee

Tayler Higgins
Height: 5'8"
Position: S
High School: Punahou (Honolulu Hawaii)
Club: Ku-Ikahi
College: Hawaii

Briana Holman
Height: 6'0"
Position: MB
High School: Cedar Hill (Texas)
Club: Mad Frog
College: LSU

Alex Holston
Height: 6'0"
Position: S/RS
High School: Sherwood (Sandy Spring, Md.)
Club: Metro American
College: Florida

*Featured Athlete*
Sara Hughes
Height: 5'11"
Position: S
High School: Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Club: Long Beach
College: USC (sand)

Despite being one of the country’s top indoor players and earning Orange County Player of the Year accolades, Sara Hughes made the bold decision to go the beach route in college. Widely regarded as the top sand volleyball recruit in the country, Hughes signed with USC in November of last year. Hughes boasts an impressive beach volleyball résumé for someone only 17 years old. At the 2012 FIVB Junior World Championship in Halifax she played with last season’s collegiate national champion Summer Ross, placing fourth. She also placed seventh in the NORCECA tour stop in Chula Vista with future USC teammate Kirby Burnham and ninth at the FIVB Youth World Championship in Cyprus with her longtime teammate Justine Wong-Orantes, a future Husker. This past summer she played in the FIVB Thailand Open, her first international open-level tournament.

Also a standout setter and hitter indoors at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., and for the Mizuno Long Beach club team, Hughes said the decision to pursue sand volleyball in college at the expense of her indoor career was one of the hardest choices she’s ever had to make, but she has no regrets. Likely this is a path we’ll be seeing many undersized high school athletes take in the future. At only 5'11", Hughes would have a tough road ahead of her to go pro indoors, but on the beach there are many under six-footers who have successful careers.

Kelsey Humphreys
Height: 6'0"
Position: S
High School: Corona del Mar (Calif.)
Club: Laguna Beach
College: Stanford

Kelly Hunter
Height: 5'11"
Position: S
High School: Papillion-La Vista South (Neb.)
Club: Nebraska Juniors
College: Nebraska

Alyssa Jensen
Height: 5'10"
Position: S
High School: St. Joseph’s Academy (St. Louis, Mo.)
Club: HP St. Louis
College: Cal

Jenelle Jordan
Height: 6'2"
Position: MB
High School: Bellaire (Texas)
Club: Houston Juniors
College: Cal

Maddy Kerr
Height: 5'8"
Position: L
High School: Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.)
Club: Wave
College: Cal

Kira Larson
Height: 6'3"
Position: MB
High School: Fargo North (N.D.)
Club Northwoods: Black Ice
College: Nebraska

Jamie Lea
Height: 6'2"
Position: OH
High School: Orange (Hillsborough, N.C.)
Club: Jammers
College: Tennessee

Hailey Luke
Height: 6'0"
Position: S/RS
High School: Lake Brantley (Altamonte Springs, Fla.)
Club: OVA
College: Florida State

Merete Lutz
Height: 6'8"
Position: MB
High School: Lamar (Houston, Texas)
Club: Southwest
College: Stanford

Ashley Mariani
Height: 6'1"
Position: MB
High School: Arlington (Texas)
Club: Dallas Summit
College: Tennessee

Maya McClendon
Height: 5'9"
Position: OH
High School: DuPont Manual (Louisville, Ky.)
Club: KIVA
College: Louisville

Joy Miley
Height: 6'2"
Position: OH
High School: Downey (Calif.)
Club: So. Cal Juniors
College: Long Beach State

Ebony Nwanebu
Height: 6'4"
Position: RS
High School: Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas)
Club: TAV
College: USC

Chiaka Ogbogu
Height: 6'1"
Position: MB
High School: Coppell (Texas)
Club: TAV
College: Texas

Kylie Randall
Height: 6'2"
Position: OH
High School: Magnolia (Texas)
Club: Willowbrook
College: Ohio State

Chloe Reinig
Height: 6'4"
Position: OH
High School: South Lyon (Mich.)
Club: Michigan Elite
College: Michigan St.

Haylee Roberts
Height: 6'3"
Position: RS
High School: Liberty (Bakersfield, Calif.)
Club: Club Jamb
College: Oregon

Amber Rolfzen
Height: 6'3"
Position: OH
High School: Papillion-La Vista South (Neb.)
Club: Nebraska Juniors
College: Nebraska

Kadie Rolfzen
Height: 6'3"
Position: OH
High School: Papillion-La Vista South (Neb.)
Club: Nebraska Juniors
College: Nebraska

Elise Ruddins
Height: 6'4"
Position: OH
High School: Aliso Niguel (Aliso Viejo, Calif.)
Club: Laguna Beach
College: USC

Taylor Sandbothe
Height: 6'1"
Position: MB
High School: Lee’s Summit West (Mo.)
Club: Invasion
College: Ohio State

Katie Schau
Height: 5'9"
Position: S
High School: Gull Lake (Richland, Mich.)
Club: Dead Frogs
College: Minnesota

Penina Snuka
Height: 5'5"
Position: S
High School: Kahuku (Hawaii)
Club: Arizona East Valley
College: Arizona

Michelle Strizak
Height: 6'0"
Position: OH/S
High School: Notre Dame (Cincinnati Ohio)
Club: Cincy Classics
College: Illinois

Bailey Tanner
Height: 6'2"
Position: S/RS
High School: San Clemente (Calif.)
Club: Tstreet
College: Washington

Hannah Tapp
Height: 6'3"
Position: MB
High School: Stewartville (Minn.)
Club: Northern Lights
College: Minnesota

Paige Tapp
Height: 6'1"
Position: RS
High School: Stewartville (Minn.)
Club: Northern Lights
College: Minnesota

Nikki Taylor
Height: 6'3"
Position: OH
High School: Henry J. Kaiser (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Club: Imi Ike
College: Hawaii

Emily Thater
Height: 6'3"
Position: MB
High School: Springfield (Mo.)
Club: Springfield Juniors
College: Missouri

Alyse Whitaker
Height: 6'2"
Position: MB
High School: Vista Murrieta (Calif.)
Club: Temecula
College: Duke

Sarah Wilhite
Height: 6'1"
Position: OH
High School: Eden Prairie (Minn.)
Club: Northern Lights
College: Wisconsin

Fab 50 2013 Facts:

Height Isn’t Everything--
Six of our Fab 50 selections are under 5'10"

Prime Position--
17 of the Fab 50 selections are middle blockers, while 16 of the Underclassmen to Watch are listed as outside hitters.

Hometown Heroes--
The most Fab 50 selections call California and Texas home, with 12 and 8 players hailing from each state, respectively.

See the 2013 30 Underclassmen to Watch list!

Originally published in March/April 2013

2 Comments

Feb 11, 2013 at 05:09PM Duck Man

"They missed the best middle in the state yet listed to middles from Missouri. How is that possible?" -outlook from a college coach.

Lafayette faced both Kickapoo and Lee's Summit West (thrice). Given Lafayette had a more complete team, but Steph Campbell was obviously the hardest working and most important senior player on the court in all three of those matches. Check out Maxprep stats from those matches if you think I'm just pushing on the home team (no horses in this race, just a fan of Missouri volleyball and great character athletes)

Feb 11, 2013 at 05:11PM Duck Man

*two, not to.

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