In late May, VolleyballMag.com presented its first-ever Girls Beach Fab 30 rankings and also introduced you to 20 underclassmen to watch on the youth circuit.
And as longtime readers of this 40-plus-year-old brand know, you can’t have a Fab 50/30 list (next year the Girls Beach Fab expands to the customary Fab 50) without a recruiting class ranking to go with it.
Thus, the debut of the VolleyballMag.com women’s beach recruiting class rankings, which are voted on by a panel of elite NCAA beach coaches and those with comprehensive player knowledge at a national level on the youth beach circuit.
VolleyballMag.com was blessed with a robust voter turnout for this list, a great show of support for this continually growing facet of our sport.
As with our other recruiting class rankings, true incoming freshmen, transfers and international players are taken into consideration.
Quick takeaways/general thoughts from the Class of 2020 rankings? The battle for the top spot was a clear two-horse race with USC and Florida State. USC carried the overwhelming majority of the first-place votes, while FSU was a constant No. 2 on most everyone’s ballots. The Trojans have four Fab 30 picks in their class, including the top two recruits in the nation in San Diego natives Megan Kraft and Delaynie Maple. Hawai’i transfer Julia Scoles certainly didn’t harm the Trojans’ case for the top spot. The Seminoles have three Fab 30 picks, plus Cal Poly transfer Torrey Van Winden.
Two-time defending-champion UCLA has a small class, but a notable one with high-ceiling standouts Peri Brennan and Tessa Van Winkle. The lowest any voter put the Bruins at was the No. 5 position, while several had them as high as No. 2.
The top five is rounded out with Stanford, which finished with a sizeable 18-point voting advantage over No. 5 Hawai’i, which held on to that position by single digits over No. 6 LSU, which was four points higher than No. 7 Loyola Marymount (got it?). Things really tightened up in the race for the last few top-10 spots. A single point separated TCU, Cal and South Carolina for the 8-10 slots with Pepperdine finishing only a point out of the top 10.
Looking back on the first Fab 30 list, 23 of the 30 on the list are on teams in the Top 10 here and if you add in Pepperdine’s Cameron Dueck, it’s essentially 24 on teams with top-10 level classes.
1. Southern California
Who is new in Troy: Olivia Bakos (5-9, Mira Costa HS, Manhattan Beach, CA, Elite Beach); Hallie Caraballo (5-2, Laguna Beach, CA, Elite Beach); Caitlin Cummings (6-1, Lick-Wilmerding HS, San Francisco, CA, Santa Cruz Beach VBC); Lauren Harrison (5-8, Notre Dame HS, Belmont, CA, Kleos); Megan Kraft (6-0, Torrey Pines HS, San Diego, CA, WAVE Beach); Delaynie Maple (5-10, Torrey Pines HS, San Diego, CA, WAVE Beach); Julia Scoles, 6-1, South Iredell HS, Statesville, NC, Hawai’i transfer).
Analysis: The Trojans, as mentioned, are the overwhelming choice for the inaugural top spot. Kraft was the top-ranked recruit in the class via the first-ever VolleyballMag.com Girls Beach Fab 30 rankings, while partner Maple was right behind her in the runner-up chair. Bakos, Cummings, Kraft and Maple all are Fab 30 picks. Voters also were impressed with the pickup of Hawai’i transfer Scoles, who was a 2019 all-Big West selection. As one voter put it, “USC will win the national championship in 2021 with the addition of Kraft, Maple and Scoles.” Another pollster called Scoles an emerging talent at an elite international level and views her as one of the best at the NCAA beach level.” Here is USC coach Dain Blanton on his class: “I really like the balance and experience of the incoming group,” he said. “We have an awesome freshman class coming in that has experience along with grad transfer Hailey Harward and Julia Scoles. Youth, experience and physicality come to mind with this class, which creates a solid balance.” Harward joined USC for this past COVID-19-cut-short season after playing indoors and outdoors at Long Beach State.
2. Florida State
Who is new in Tallahassee: Angeline Bergner (6-0, Windmere, Florida, Prep, Florida Elite Beach); Arianna Bergner (6-0, Windmere Prep, Florida Elite Beach); Caitlin Godwin (5-10, James Bowie HS, Austin, Texas); Caitlin Moon (5-11, Boerne-Champion HS, Boerne, Texas, Texas Volleyball Tour); Raelyn White (5-11, St. Petersburg, Florida, Collegiate, Bevolley): Sydney Wetterstrom (6-1, Longmont, Colorado, University of Michigan graduate transfer); Torrey Van Winden (6-3, Vintage HS, Napa, CA, Cal Poly graduate transfer).
Analysis: There also was no question among voters as to who the No. 2 class belongs to. Coach Brooke Niles has three VolleyballMag.com Fab 30 selections in Godwin, Moon and White with Moon being in contention for top-recruit-in the-country honors. Another key to this class is the addition of Cal Poly grad transfer Torrey Van Winden. “Florida State improves its chances with Torrey Van Winden,” one voter said. Another voter puts Van Winden in the elite NCAA beach player category. Wetterstrom was a key presence indoors for Michigan (more than 300 kills in 2019). “What I like most about our recruiting class is that we bring in a lot of experience and size,” Niles said. “They are all very athletic and cover a lot of court. All of these players are used to winning at very high levels and I am excited to see what they can do at FSU.” Identical twins Angeline and Arianna Bergner won the inaugural SSAC national high school beach championship.
Who is new in Westwood: Peri Brennan (5-8, Laguna Beach, California, HS, Santa Monica/Laguna Beach); Caitlyn Kyle (5-9, Redondo Union HS, Redondo Beach, CA, Elite Beach); Sophie Swett (5-8, The Branson School, Ross, CA, Kleos Beach); Tessa Van Winkle (6-2, San Clemente, CA, Santa Monica/Laguna Beach/WAVE Beach)
Analysis: A compact yet impactful recruiting class for the two-time defending national champions. Voters spoke loudly with USC, Florida State and UCLA firmly locking in the top three positions. Brennan and Van Winkle both are VolleyballMag.com Girls Beach Fab 30 selections and both were ranked among the top-eight recruits in the country during that voting process. In fact, those top eight players come from the top four vote getters in these rankings. Kyle is another product of the Elite Beach program, while Swett comes from the Bay Area Kleos club.
Who is new in Stanford: Abby Converse (5-9, Xavier College Prep, Phoenix, Arizona, RPM); Ellie Gamberdella (5-10, San Marcos HS, San Marcos, CA, Valley Girls); Maya Harvey (5-10, Redondo Union HS, Redondo Beach, CA, Elite Beach); Xolani Hodel (6-1, Huntington Beach, CA, Laguna Beach/Santa Monica); Kate Reilly (5-10, Mira Costa HS, Manhattan Beach, CA, Elite Beach); Emmy Sharp (6-1, Burlingame, CA, Santa Cruz Beach).
Analysis: Coach Andrew Fuller did quite well here with four Girls Beach Fab 30 picks in Harvey, Hodel, Reilly and Sharp. Hodel and Reilly are among the top eight recruits in the country as voted on with the Fab 30. “I love this class,” Fuller said. “They are engaged and curious people off the court, are ultra-competitive, and will soak up the completely unique Stanford experience. They bring heaps of tournament and national team experience, and will be fighting for starting spots immediately. We have gotten better every year and this class continues our steep upward trajectory.”
Who is new in Honolulu: Madi Bogle (5-11, Eastlake HS, Chula Vista, CA, 692 West); Kaylee Glagau (6-2, Streetsville Secondary, Mississauga, Canada, Legacy Beach); Lea Kruse (5-10, Kronshagen, Germany, Gymnasium Kronshagen, Irvine Valley College); Jaime Santer (6-1, Northern Secondary, Toronto, Canada, Pakmen); Zoe Smith (5-8, Santa Fe Christian, Solana Beach, CA), WAVE Beach)
Analysis: Hawai’I received high marks as well for this class that mixes domestic with international. Bogle is a VolleyballMag.com Girls Beach Fab 30 selection, while Smith is a product of the successful WAVE Beach club. Bogle and Smith have teamed up before on the youth circuit, while Glagau and Santer have been teammates in the past in Canada, and both have had youth success in the states. “I first saw Kaylee play four years ago on a trip to Canada,” Hawai’i coach Jeff Hall said at the time her signing was announced. “She wasn’t the reason for my trip, but after watching her compete it was clear she was at the top of her class. At 6-2, she’s a force at the net and has great ball control for a blocker.” And here’s Hall on Santer: “Jaime is a five-star athlete with the size to play at the net or as a defender. She was heavily recruited for soccer, but chose to pursue beach volleyball. We’re definitely fortunate benefactors of her change of heart.” Germany native Kruse was the co-MVP of the Orange Empire Conference both indoors and on the beach during the 2018-2019 school year.
Who is new in Baton Rouge: Reilly Allred (5-9, Western Almanace HS, Elton, NC, BEACH SOUTH); Brooke Bluetrich (6-0, Desert Vista HS, Phoenix, Arizona, RPM Sand); Amber Haynes (5-9, St. Joseph’s Academy, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Digs Beach); Macy Migliore (5-4, St. Scholastica, Covington, Louisiana, Digs Beach), Grace Morgan (6-2, Notre Dame HS, Crowley, Louisiana, grad transfer who played indoors at Rice); Ellie Shank (5-9, Valley Center, Kansas, No Coast).
Analysis: The Tigers did quite well with this class, which features Girls Beach Fab 30 selections in Bluetrich, Haynes and Shank. “This class is really strong and we are so proud of their progress,” LSU coach Russell Brock said at the time the signings were announced. “We can’t wait to get them on campus. They work hard and play with a joy that is infectious. Each one of these recruits are dedicated students who will continue to contribute to our ability to prioritize success in the classroom as well as in the sand. They understand what it means to be a Tiger and the responsibility that carries.” Bluetrich was named the 2019 Arizona beach volleyball player of the year, while Allred started to focus on beach her senior year in high school. “Her diverse skillset will allow her to be available to play with many different types of players,” Brock said of Allred. “Her game translates really well to the college game.” Haynes and Migliore are both local Louisiana products, while Shank had major success last summer at the beach national level (second at AAUs and third at junior nationals). “Her impact on our program will be immediate and powerful,” Brock said of Shank.
7. Loyola Marymount
Who is new in west Los Angeles: Madi Firnett (Neuqua Valley HS, Naperville, Illinois, Team One); Iva Lindahl (5-8, Patrick Henry HS, San Diego, CA, Cal transfer); Jacinda Ramirez (5-9, Los Alamitos, CA, Golden Coast); Isabelle Reffel (6-1, Allebergsgymnasiet, Vallentuna, Sweden); Michaela Rezentes (5-10, Alhambra, CA; Allisa Vuorinen (5-9, Sastamala, Finland).
Analysis: A little bit of everything here for coach John Mayer. Lindahl is a transfer from Cal where she went 9-1 during her senior season from the No. 1 position and had victories over ranked teams such as USC and Arizona State. She left call ranked sixth in program history with 65 wins and a .663 winning percentage. “We feel so fortunate to be adding Iva,” Mayer said at the time the transfer was announced. “She was having an unbelievable season playing at 1’s before the season got cut short. Iva is a volleyball rat. She eats, breathes and dreams about the game. Her hunger to excel is contagious and will be such a valuable influence on our team.” Vuorinen won the silver medal in the 2019 women’s Finnish championships. “Allisa is a really dynamic defender who has the ability to score both inside-out and in transition,” Mayer said. “She’s already had valuable experience playing on the FIVB World Tour and will come in ready to make an impact right away.” Sweeden native Reffel also will play for LMU indoors. “Isabelle is a high-flying athlete,” Mayer said. “She can create angles as an attacker that are really tough to defend, and on top of that, she has great ball control. She receives serve at a high level and also handsets really consistently.”
8. Texas Christian
Who is new in Fort Worth: Logyn Hinds (5-9, Lake Ridge HS, Mansfield, Texas, Beach 10K); Maria Gonzalez Valentin (5-9, Piaget Bilingual Academy, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, PUR Beach); Josie Miller (6-0, Rockwall, Texas, Beach 10K); Tania Moreno Mateeva (5-9, IES Francisco Ros Giner, Madrid, Spain, Club Voleibol Majadahonda); Peyton Yamagata (5-10, Stone Bridge HS, Ashburn, Virginia, Grit Volleyball.
Analysis: TCU coach Hector Gutierrez has a lot to be excited about with this incoming class. “The experience that some of the incoming freshmen have is very hard to find,” he said. “Their overall skills make this class one of the more competitive I have ever had.” Hinds is a VolleyballMag.com Girls Beach Fab 30 selection and had extensive success on the Texas Volleyball Tour. Moreno Mateeva, a Spain native, has a TCU connection in current Horned Frogs player Daniela Alvarez who she has teamed with internationally in the past. Virginia product Yamagata was second-degree black-belt taekwondo artist before discovering the beach game on a family vacation in Mexico. Gonzalez Valentin brings a decorated youth resume to Fort Worth. She was an AAU national champion last summer at 18U after finishing third a year earlier in the same division. Miller, like Hinds, is a local product via Rockwall, Texas, about an hour northeast of the Metroplex.
Who is new in Berkeley: Brooke Buchner (5-11, The Bishop’s School, San Diego, CA, WAVE Beach), Maya Gessner (6-0, La Jolla, CA, WAVE Beach), Ava Mann (5-9, Hayden Secondary School, Burlington, Canada, Legacy BVC); Katarina Pantovic (6-0, Lord Byng Secondary School, Vancouver, Canada, Thunder VBC); Grace Paulson (5-8, Las Lomas HS, Walnut Creek, CA, Kleos Beach).
Analysis: A ton to like about the Bears class here, in fact, some could say this might be one of the more underrated classes on the list. One voter lists Buchner as one of the top 10 kids in the class of 2020 for a long time. Gessner is regards as one of the top blockers in the class and generated a lot of interest. One name to keep an eye out for is Pantovic. “She might be the top player out of Canada, for sure on the beach, and has all the skills to be elite in college,” Bears associate head coach Derek Olson said. Paulson gives Cal a boost on the defensive end. Buchner and Gessner are both VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 30 selections.
10. South Carolina
Who is new in Columbia: Samantha Ansel (5-4, Upper Arlington, Ohio, Next Level Beach); Sophie Bengoechea (5-6, International School of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas, 210 Beach); Jillian Gleason (5-10, Assumption Catholic Secondary, Burlington, Canada, Legacy BVC, UAB transfer); Alyssa Keller (6-0, West Orange HS, Winter Garden, Florida, Cape Coast); Hannah Mackenhausen (5-8, Cathedral Catholic, San Diego, CA, WAVE Beach),;Elizabeth Thompson (6-0, Fellowship Christian, Roswell, Georgia, A5 Beach).
Analysis: Bengoechea, from San Antonio, Keller (Florida) and Mackenhausen (San Diego) all earned VolleyballMag.com Girls Beach Fab 30 accolades. And all have played with each other at one point or another. Bengoechea and Ansel have teamed in the past on the youth circuit, as have Bengoechea and Mackenhausen (in 2018 at the AVP Hermosa Beach Open). Keller and Mackenhausen have AAU experience together. Gleason is a transfer from Alabama-Birmingham.
Honorable Mention: Pepperdine, Grand Canyon, Florida International, Cal Poly, Stetson, Long Beach State, Florida Atlantic, Tulane.