NCAA notes: Rules changes ahead, FSU, Minnesota, Baylor, Pitt updates

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Layne Van Buskirk of Pitt trained with the Canadian national team this summer/Pitt photo

The American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Recruiting Taskforce put out a flyer at the recent USA Volleyball girls’ junior national championships in Minneapolis highlighting the new volleyball recruiting legislation, lending an inside look into the complex world of college athletics recruiting.

The following legislation has an August 1 effective date:

Contact with alumni: Permits on-campus recruiting contact between a former student-athlete (alumni) and a prospect and their family members. The contact can be arranged by the athletic department.

Unofficial visits expand: Permits off-campus interaction between a coach, staff member or current player and a prospect within one mile of campus boundaries during a prospect’s unofficial visit. This interaction may occur regardless of the prospect’s age.

Unofficial phone calls: For prospects making an unofficial visit, permits phone calls and electronic communication with prospects and individuals accompanying her from the day before the start of the visit until the end of the visit, regardless of the prospect’s age.

The following has an immediate effective date:

Camp: For prospects attending camp, it permits a campus tour to be arranged and/or conducted by the athletic department at any time during camp.

General communication and recruiting reminders:

Phone calls/text messages/email/mail: May not be made to an individual (or his or her relatives or legal guardians) before September 1 at the beginning of his or her junior year in high school. The exception is the unofficial visit new legislation listed above.

Off campus contacts: Contacts with prospects off campus shall not be made by a recruit before July 1 following the completion of his or her junior year in high school.

Evaluation days: College coaches have 80 recruiting days per year.

Number of evaluations per recruit: Each institution shall be limited to seven recruiting opportunities (contacts and evaluations combined) during the academic year per prospect.

FSU coach Chris Poole

Wait and see for FSU: Florida State coach Chris Poole is juggling several storylines heading into the season.

Poole calls this season “the first true rebuilding year since 1994.”

Poole noted that the Seminoles have five freshmen on the roster the most since 1994 and “they will have play.”

The good thing is Poole’s recruiting class has national-ranking chops, rated No. 8 this spring by VolleyballMag.com.

The Seminoles, who went 26-6 in 2016 and made it to the NCAA round of 16 while finishing with a No. 13 national ranking, also are dealing with injuries. Junior outside-hitter Christina Ambrose (a former VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selection) had back surgery and missed the spring season. She had 223 kills and 96 digs last season.

Natasha Calkins, a senior outside hitter from Calgary, Alberta, who had 147 kills and 57 total blocks last season, also is recovering from injury.

“We’re going to be a young team and we will have to see how these injuries will straighten out before the fall,” Poole said. “Our two returning left sides are up in the air. We are in a wait-and-see mode. Hopefully they will return and we will get headed in the right direction.”

Poole, whose squad lost four starters, including three All-Americans, said as many as three of the incoming freshmen could start, including two of three incoming middles in Taryn Knuth, Deja Williams and Tiana Jackson. Knuth and Williams are 2017 VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 picks. Jackson trained with the Seminoles in the spring after graduating early from high school.

“Two of those three will start. All three are great kids,” Pool said. “We lost a lot from last year. But at the same time I love the incoming freshman class, but they are inexperienced at this level. We will be teaching a lot this year. This is the first time in my 35-year career that both middles are freshman. It’s going to be a fun and challenging year. We have to blend the returning players and the incoming freshmen together.”

Poole said the Atlantic Coast Conference continues to improve year after year.

“North Carolina is going to be good. They were young last year and return a lot,” he said. “Pittsburgh is going to be good and Miami will be good again. They lost a setter the first weekend last year and that affected the whole year. Louisville will be good and they have a new coach. North Carolina State is going to be very good with a lot of returning players and a couple transfers from the Pac-12. Our conference is getting better. We’ll be the young ones this year, but there are a lot of really good returning teams.”

Minnesota update: Golden Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon labeled his team’s spring season as having “ups and downs.”

“We worked really hard and got a lot better,” he said while watching action at junior nationals in Minneapolis.

Minnesota’s spring slate included a trip to Hawaii.

“I was happy overall with how things went in the spring,” McCutcheon said. “We had a lot of people leave. I like the way this group has responded. They have done a good job honoring their commitment to the program. We still have a long way to go, but I was impressed with how they worked. We’re going to be talented, but I don’t know if we are going to be any good right now.”

Minnesota advanced to the NCAA national semifinals for the second straight year last season. The Golden Gophers graduated six seniors, including AVCA player of the year Sarah Wilhite and All-American selections Molly Lohman and Hannah Tapp. Paige Tapp earned the prestigious Senior CLASS Award.

“It will come down to first contact for us,” said McCutcheon. “If our serving and our serve-receive is good we will be OK. We have good returning players and a good incoming class.”

Minnesota returns setter All-American setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson along with outside hitter Alexis Hart (AVCA honorable mention All-American). McCutcheon’s 2017 recruiting class was ranked fourth by VolleyballMag.com and features outside hitter Stephanie Samedy, the No. 4-ranked recruit in the class according to VolleyballMag.com. The class has three Fab 50 picks.

“We have a lot of question marks, but I really like the group,” said McCutcheon. “We’re just untested.”

Baylor update: Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre’s team is coming off a 2016 season where it advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011, but did so despite injuries to middle blockers Tola Itiola, Jaelyn Jackson and outside hitter Shelly Fanning. The Bears, who made it to the second round of the tournament, are looking to earn back-to-back NCAA berths for the first time in program history.

“Our spring was really good,” McGuyre said. “We have a lot of people back and we had a setter come in January (recruit Hannah Lockin) and we got her battle-tested. We had a lot of injuries last year but we still made a good run. The injured girls will be back and healthy when the season starts.”

The Bears return all-conference players, including unanimous all-Big 12 first-team pick Katie Staiger, who led the loop in kills last year. Also back are all-Big 12 selections Jana Brusek and Camryn Freiberg. Baylor’s incoming recruiting class was recognized as a top-20 class by VolleyballMag.com and is headlined by Fab 50 selection Yossi Pressley out of the Houston area.

McGuyre acknowledged Texas will again be the team to beat in the Big 12.

“Texas is loaded with talent,” he said. “I’m glad they can only put six on the court at a time. Kansas is going to be good again and so will Kansas State and Iowa State. I think those teams and us will all try to push for second place.”

This is McGuyre’s third year at Baylor.

“I love it here,” he said. “Texas feels like home. There are great people and there is great volleyball at Baylor. There is so much good talent in this state and we are right in the middle of it.”

 

Pittsburgh update: Panthers coach Dan Fisher’s team lost only one starter from last year’s group that reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004 and then advanced to the second round.

Pitt welcomes back All-American honorable-mention selection Stephanie Williams, ACC setter of the year Kamalani Akeo, second-team all-conference selection Mariah Bell and ACC all-freshman team members Nika Markovic and Layne Van Buskirk.

Fisher, who signed a two-year contract extension that was announced in late February, brings in a recruiting class that includes Fab 50 selection Kayla Lund.

“We won’t have that many seniors,” said Fisher. “We were good and young last year and now we’ll pretty much have the same team the next two years.”

Fisher likes the offensive firepower his roster possesses.

“The best thing we have are arms,” he said. “I think we have a good arm at every position.”

Fisher is particularly high on 6-3 middle blocker Van Buskirk, a native of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

“She has trained with the Canadian national team top 24,” he noted. “When she came here she was pretty new to volleyball. With the training she’s had and being with the Canadian team this summer, she should be dominant in the ACC.”

Pitt recently ran a Q&A with Van Buskirk that you can read here.

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