Stanford, which has won two of the last three NCAA titles, is the unanimous top vote getter in the 2019 VolleyballMag.com women’s top recruiting classes poll.
Nebraska, the team Stanford beat in last December’s national-title match, is No. 2.
The Cardinal, which has won eight NCAA titles and has finished second eight times, was the unanimous No. 1 by our elite panel of NCAA Division I coaches (VolleyballMag.com does not participate in the voting).
And the gap after that is large. Oregon was No. 3, followed closely by Ohio State, and rankings newcomer TCU. Another new team in the rankings is LSU, coming in at No. 10.
A year ago, it was Penn State, Florida, Texas, Washington and Nebraska.
In 2017, the top five were Texas, Wisconsin, UCLA, Minnesota and Kentucky, while 2016 featured Stanford, Oregon, USC, North Carolina and Texas.
A quick footnote on Texas. While the Longhorns did not make the top five this year, they are on the list at No. 6, giving them four straight years of a No. 6 or higher ranking. Texas missed the top five this year by two points.
1. Stanford Cardinal
Newcomers: Caitie Baird (6-3, OH), Natalie Berty (6-3, OH), Madeleine Gates (6-3, MB, UCLA), Kendall Kipp (6-5, OH), McKenna Vicini (6-2, MB), Selina Xu (6-0, S).
Synopsis: It’s not too hard to see why coach Kevin Hambly’s recruiting class received nothing but first-place votes.
Outside of Gates, a transfer from UCLA, all of the above listed players are 2019 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 selections.
Kipp is our No. 2 rated player on the Fab 50 list, followed by Baird at No. 3 and Xu at No. 5. Gates, a 6-3 middle blocker, is a graduate transfer from UCLA. She led the Bruins in blocks and was third in kills last season and is the first player to ever transfer into Stanford. Stanford might have been the top class without her, and with Gates is, as Hambly said,
“This class is loaded with four top-10-rated players.”
The fourth he is referring to is Vicini who is one of the top-10-rated players by PrepVolleyball.com (their Senior Aces list).
“All four have played with the USA junior system,” Hambly added. “They bring much needed depth for this year, but more importantly they keep Stanford in the hunt for the national championship for years to come.”
And by the way, Berty was the 2018 VolleyballMag.com girls high school player of the year.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Newcomers: Nicole Drewnick (6-2, S), Emma Gabel (5-7, DS-libero), Kenzie Knuckles (5-8, DS-libero), Madi Kubik (6-1, OH), Fallon Stutheit (6-1, MB), Riley Zuhn (6-5, OH).
Synopsis: Nebraska is on this list for a second straight year after securing a class that includes three Fab 50 selections in Knuckles, Kubik and Zuhn — the second year in a row the Huskers have welcomed three Fab 50s into the fold (following Nicklin Hames, Capri Davis and Callie Schwarzenbach from last year’s class).
Knuckles was a 2018 VolleyballMag.com girls high school All-American first-team selection. Kubik and Knuckles both were early January enrollees in Lincoln. Kubik won two Gatorade Iowa player of the year awards, while Knuckles was Indiana’s recipient this past fall.
3. Oregon Ducks
Newcomers: Elise Ferreira (5-8, S), Alex Laita (6-1, OH), Morgan Lewis (6-3, RS), Georgia Murphy (5-6, libero), Bea Wetton (5-8, DS), Taylor Williams (6-3, OH).
Synopsis: This is another class here with an abundance of VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 recruits in the form of Laita, Lewis and Williams.
Laita and Lewis both are out of Southern California, while coach Matt Ulmer kept Eugene, Oregon, product Williams in town. Murphy, who clubbed with Texas Tornados, is regarded as the top libero in the Class of 2019 (per PrepVolleyball.com). Murphy and Ferriera both enrolled early at Oregon.
“We bring in three Fab 50 pins, the top-ranked Senior Ace libero and the No. 80 Senior Ace setter who adds depth,” Ulmer said. “We addressed our needs really well. There is a lot to be excited about.”
Oregon’s 2018 class was ranked No. 6 by VolleyballMag.com, giving Ulmer two years in a row of elite additions.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
Newcomers: Gabi Gonzales (6-4, OH), Reilly MacNeill (6-2, MB), Jenaisya Moore (5-11, OH), Kylie Murr (5-6, libero), Machaela Podraza (6-0, S)
Synopsis: Coach Geoff Carlston, whose team was decimated with injuries and didn’t make the NCAA field last season, impresses with this class that includes three VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selections in Gonzales, Murr and Podraza.
Gonzales, out of Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia, and the A5 club, also was a 2018 VolleyballMag.com girls high school All-American first-team pick. She played in high school and club with fellow Buckeye signee MacNeill. Murr is another VolleyballMag.com girls high school All-American pick from this past fall, helping her Yorktowne (Indiana) team win a state title along with Nebraska signee Kenzie Knuckles. Podraza is out of Big Walnut High School in Ohio and played club for Mintonette.
5.Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Newcomers: Julia Adams (6-3, OH), Madilyn Cole (6-4, MB), Ina Ignacio (5-6, libero), Afedo Manyang (6-2, MB), McKenzie Nichols (5-9, S), Audrey Nalls (6-1, OH), Bella Swafford (5-8, libero-S).
Synopsis: In recent years, programs that haven’t had recent NCAA successes have earned their ways into the top 10 rankings. Last year, Auburn checked in at No. 10 and in 2017 it was Maryland. This year TCU makes the list.
Coach Jill Kramer stayed completely in the Lone Star State with this class. Adams and Nalls were 2019 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 picks. Adams from Plano, Texas, and played club at Dallas Summit, while Nalls is a Texas Image club product.
“Julia brings some big heat from the outside pin,” Kramer said in a TCU release announcing her signing. “If someone digs her, the next swing is typically coming back harder.”
On Nalls, “Audrey is a fierce competitor in every sense of the word,” Kramer said in the release. “She has great court awareness and vision, a live arm swing with the ability to take big swings in big moments. She’s a gritty defensive player with speed and the ability to terminate out of the back row.”
Nichols also is a highly-touted talent out of Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, earning Under Armour girls high school All-American honors. “McKenzie is one of the most athletic and dynamic setters coming out of the 2019 class,” Kramer said. “Consistent is the best word to describe her, which is very important in the setting role. She’s consistent in her delivery and finish, which leads to great tempo and location.”
6. Texas Longhorns
Newcomers: Skylar Fields (6-2, RS), Molly Phillips (6-5, MB).
Synopsis: The Longhorns might have just two incoming players, but they’re expected to be special.
Fields, out of the Houston Juniors club, is the top-rated recruit in the 2019 class as voted on by an elite VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 panel of NCAA Division I coaches. She also got the top nod from PrepVolleyball.com. Phillips, who plays for Texas Image, is another 2019 Girls Fab 50 selection, regarded as one of the top 20 finds in the country.
Both were USA junior national team members in 2018, and are on the 2019 junior national training team that also includes Texas sophomores Logan Eggleston and Sydney Petersen. That team is helmed by Longhorns coach Jerritt Elliott. Those four will be looking for roster spots on the 12-team 2019 junior national team that will compete in the FIVB women’s U20 world championship in July in Mexico.
7. Purdue Boilermakers
Newcomers: Maddy Chinn (6-2, OH), Emma Ellis (6-2, OH), Maddie Koch (6-2, OH), Megan Renner (6-2, S), Madison Schermerhorn (5-11, OH), Ava Torrance (5-1, DS-libero).
Synopsis: After earning an honorable-mention nod in the 2018 recruiting rankings, coach Dave Shondell’s program enters the top 10 with this class, which features Girls Fab 50 recruits in Ellis, Koch and Renner. Ellis is a North Carolina native out of the Carolina Union club, while Koch starred in Wisconsin at Ashwaubenon High School and the WVA club. Renner is from Iowa and the Iowa Rockets club.
8. USC Trojans
Newcomers: Keila Barra (5-9, libero), Madison Horin (6-3, MB), Kalen Owes (6-2, OH).
Synopsis: USC also graduates from the honorable-mention list in 2018 to the top 10 here, thanks to a small but significant class headlined by Fab 50 selections Horin and Owes.
Horin also made the 2018 VolleyballMag.com girls high school All-American list after starring at Munster High School in Indiana. Owes comes to Purdue from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix and clubbed at Arizona East Valley. Barra was a 2018 all-CIF state first-team pick from San Marino, California.
“Our class is small but adds some very high-quality pieces,” the USC coaching staff told VolleyballMag.com. “Madison Horin is a two-time junior national team member who adds a big arm and fast lateral speed to the middle blocker position. Kalen Owes is a very physical outside hitter with a big arm and great passing and defensive skills. Keila Barra has been a six-rotation left side for her career and will switch to libero at USC, adding ball control and defensive speed.”
9. BYU Cougars
Newcomers: Erin Anderson (6-2, OH), Morgan Bower (5-8, libero), Whitney Bower (5-9, S), Abbey Dayton (6-1, OH), Kate Grimmer (6-1, RS), Morgan Johnson (5-11, OH), Grace Wee (5-6, libero), Callie Whitney (5-8, DS, Salt Lake CC).
Synopsis: Coach Heather Olmstead, who directed BYU to the NCAA national semifinals last December, had the VolleyballMag.com No. 7 ranked class in 2018 and remains in the top 10 once again here with this large class.
Grimmer is a 2019 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 selection and comes out of the Arizona Storm club program. The interesting name among this long list is Whitney Bower out of Skyview High School in Nampa, Idaho. She was originally expected to be a member of the BYU 2020 signing class, but reclassified and now joins this group, which includes her sister, Morgan. The Bower sisters are the daughters of former BYU student-athletes Danny and Caroline Bower (Caroline Bower played volleyball at BYU).
“Whitney plays with a competitive fire that spreads throughout the entire team,” Olmstead said in a BYU release announcing the signing. “She has a good touch on the ball with an ability to get her hitters in rhythm. She is a proven winner and will raise the level in our gym.”
Morgan Bower enrolled at BYU in January. Whitney is a transfer from Salt Lake Community College. Johnson’s mother, Gale, was an All-American outside hitter at BYU.
10. LSU Tigers
Newcomers: Anita Anwusi (6-3, MB), Jill Bohnet (5-4, libero), Samarah Hill (6-0, OH), Meredyth Howard (5-10, MB), Allee Morris (6-2, MB-OH), Karli Rose (5-5, S).
Synopsis: LSU, another team that didn’t make the NCAA field, got better with this Southeastern-focused class. Anwusi, a product of Houston Juniors, is a 2019 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 choice. She’s also part of the U.S. women’s junior national training team.
“Anita is an incredibly gifted athlete who will bring a different level of physicality to our gym,” LSU coach Fran Flory said in a school release.
Rose is another interesting name on the list. At 5-5, she has been reported to touch 10-2.
“Karli is a dynamic, explosive athlete who will bring a different style to the setting position,” Flory said.
The 6-4 Morris is an in-state product out of Archbishop Hannah in Covington, Louisiana.
“Allee is a physically imposing athlete with an incredibly bright future in the sport,” Flory said. “She is a tough Louisiana athlete who knows how to win and who has won at the highest level.”
Honorable Mention: Illinois, Baylor, Penn State, Colorado, Louisville, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas.