Minnesota has made its return to the VolleyballMag.com’s ranking of the top women’s recruiting classes in a major way.
The Golden Gophers, who last appeared in the VolleyballMag.com top-10 when they were No. 4 in 2017, outdistanced No. 2 Kentucky by only five voting points, but held a 2-to-1 edge in first-place votes. For that matter, Minnesota and Kentucky scooped up all but two of the first- or second-place votes.
Craig Skinner’s Kentucky Wildcats also return to the top 10 for the first time since 2017 when they finished right behind Minnesota at No. 5.
The top five this time around is rounded out by perennial recruiting-class top-10 resident Texas (No. 5 in 2016, No. 1 in 2017, No. 3 in 2018 and No. 6 in 2019) at No. 3, Wisconsin at No. 4 (first time back since a No. 2 finish in 2017) and Stanford at No. 5 (No. 1 in 2016 and 2019).
With now five years of recruiting class data since VolleyballMag.com went to a completely digital format under current owners and volleyball gurus/sport champions Lee Feinswog and Ed Chan, we’ll come back later in the spring/early summer with a look at how these annual recruiting class rankings have played out in real life with the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 installments.
1. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Who is new in Minneapolis: Cami Appiani (5-8, DS, Torrey Pines (San Diego, California), Wave), Taylor Landfair (6-4, OH, Plainfield (Illinois) Central, Sports Performance), Katie Myers (6-2, MB, graduate transfer Maryland), Melani Shaffmaster (6-3, S, New Castle (Indiana), Munciana), Jenna Wenaas (6-1, OH, Liberty (Frisco, Texas), TAV)
Gopher thoughts: The voting panel was emphatic about the high-caliber of this top-ranked class.
“I know Minnesota is No. 1 by a bunch,” said one panelist.
While this class is small on paper with four incoming freshmen and a grad transfer, it’s legit with a capital L. Landfair was voted the top recruit in the country in the recent 2020 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 rankings, while Wenaas was voted the No. 5 recruit on this end and was in the top three with our friends over at PrepVolleyball.com.
“Two of the top three kids in the country, both pins who can terminate balls, plus Shaffmaster makes this an easy No. 1,” said another pollster.
Myers is a grad transfer from fellow Big Ten school Maryland, while Appiani is from well-regarded Torrey Pines High School and Wave club programs. Shaffmaster, also a Fab 50 pick, also earned VolleyballMag.com girls high school All-American first-team honors last fall.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
Who is new in Lexington: Sophie Fischer (6-5, OH, Nation Ford (Fort Mill, South Carolina), Carolina Rogue), Elise Goetzinger (6-4, MB, Mount Horeb (Wisconsin), Milwaukee Sting), Reagan Rutherford (6-0, RS-S, Ridge Point (Missouri City, Texas), Houston Skyline), Madisen Skinner (6-2, OH, Faith West (Katy, Texas), Houston Skyline), Riah Walker (5-10, Libero, Riverview (Sarasota, Florida), OTVA)
Wildcat thoughts: Kentucky knocked it out of the park with this haul. Skinner, the younger sister of current Wildcat Avery Skinner, is the No. 3 recruit in the class of 2020 behind Landfair and Michigan signee Jess Mruzik (via VolleyballMag.com’s Girls Fab 50). This group has a total of four Fab 50 selections in Skinner, Goetzinger, Rutherford and Fischer, who was a late commit in January.
“Kentucky has a really athletic and versatile class,” one panelist noted. “They have four players ranked in the top 30 in the 2020 class and all of them play well-above 10 feet. They have covered their needs in every position and each of them has a chance to make a huge impact on the college game.”
And this from another astute panelist: “Adding Sophie Fischer to this class was a huge get. Skinner, Rutherford and Fischer are all athletes who play high above the net; add Goetzinger and you have four of the top 30 kids in the country, three being in the top 15.”
3. Texas Longhorns
Who is new in Austin: Naomi Cabello (6-1, S, East Ridge (Clermont, Florida), Top Select), Capri Davis (6-1, OH, transfer from Nebraska), Reilly Heinrich (5-5, Libero, Rouse (Leander, Texas), Austin Juniors), Nalani Iosia (5-6, Libero, Redondo Union, Redondo Beach, California, Mizuno Long Beach), Melanie Parra (5-10, OH, Sinaloa (Mexico), Sinaloa), Madison Williams (6-1, OH, Lake Ridge, Mansfield, Texas), TAV)
Longhorn thoughts: Another rock-solid incoming class for coach Jerritt Elliott and crew, who have lived in this recruiting-class-ranking top 10 for the last five years. Cabello, Iosia and Williams are VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 selections. Williams, one panelist noted, is coming off an ACL injury. Davis, a Texas native, played the last two academic years at Nebraska, recording 38 kills and 12 blocks in 2019 before taking a season-ending leave of absence.
“She’s an explosive athlete from the state of Texas that we are thrilled to get into our gym,” Elliott told the university’s TexasSports.com website regarding Davis.
“The transfer of Capri Davis helps this class, but where does she fit in a loaded Texas group?” asked one panelist. “Texas gets a much needed setter in Cabello and added ball control with Iosia.”
Heinrich is a local product from the Austin Juniors club program. Iosia was a VolleyballMag.com 2019 girls high school All-American first-team pick. Parra, of Sinaloa, Mexico, has Mexico national-team experience, and inked with the Longhorns in March.
4. Wisconsin Badgers
Who is new in Madison: Jade Demps (6-2, OH, Broughton (Raleigh, North Carolina), Triangle), M.J. Hammill (6-0, S, Center Grove (Greenwood, Indiana), Munciana), Deahna Kraft (6-0, OH-DS, graduate transfer from Pepperdine), Devyn Robinson (6-2, MB, Centennial (Ankeny, Iowa), Iowa PowerPlex)
Badger thoughts: The national runners-up only strengthened themselves here with Fab 50 selections in Demps, Hammill and Robinson. Demps is the daughter of former Arizona standout Keisha Demps, who also played and coached in the United States Professional Volleyball (league), the last legitimate attempt at a women’s pro league in the country. Kraft is a grad transfer from Pepperdine where she starred in the Waves’ beach program, earning VolleyballMag.com second-team All-American honors in 2018.
“Wisconsin put together another good class,” one pollster said. “Jade Demps, Robinson and Hammill should be the future of this program, and Kraft adds some experience with ball control to the team.”
Here’s Badgers coach Kelly Sheffield at the time of the signings of Demps, Hammill and Robinson: “I really like this class a lot,” he said. “All three absolutely love to compete. They don’t flinch and they don’t back down in big moments. All three are very confident in themselves, but they all are extremely driven to learn and get better.”
5. Stanford Cardinal
Who is new in Stanford: Alex Lougeay (5-11, Libero-DS, La Costa Canyon (Encinitas, California), Wave), Elena Ogilvie (5-10, Libero-OH, Iolani (Honolulu, Hawai’i), Ku’Ikahi), Annabelle Smith (6-3, MB, Carroll (Southlake, Texas), TAV), Leilah Smith (6-4, MB, Hockaday School, Dallas (Texas), TAV), Malia Tufuga (6-1, S, Costa Mesa (California), Tstreet)
Cardinal thoughts: Stanford showed up on all voting ballots and lands in the middle of the top 10 here, marking the fourth time in the last five years it has been in the VolleyballMag.com top 10, earning top honors in 2016 and again last year. Cardinal coach Kevin Hambly strengthened his middle blocking positions with a pair of Texas natives in Annabelle Smith and Leilah Smith. Ogilvie is a highly decorated athlete out of Hawai’i. All three were 2020 Girls Fab 50 selections. Stanford coach Kevin Hambly stayed in-state with Lougeay from the San Diego area and Tufuga from Orange County — her brother, Mason, plays on the Stanford men’s team.
6. Michigan Wolverines
Who is new in Ann Arbor: Hannah Grant (5-8, Libero-DS, Michigan State transfer), Brooke Humphrey (6-0, Libero, McCutcheon (Lafayette, Indiana), Circle City), Scottee Johnson (6-0, S, Centerville (Ohio), Mintonette), Jenni Liu (5-11, S, Blinn College, Schul-un Leistungssportzentrum Berlin (Germany), VC Olympia Berlin), Jess Mruzik (6-1, OH, Mercy (Farmington Hills (Michigan), Legacy), Kendall Murray (6-2, OH, Skyline (Ann Arbor, Michigan) Legacy)
Wolverine thoughts: Veteran coach Mark Rosen’s squad hits the VolleyballMag.com recruiting top 10, and deservedly so. Mruzik is the 2019 VolleyballMag.com girls club player of the year, followed that up by being named the 2019 VolleyballMag.com girls high school player of the year and then earned a 2020 Girls Fab 50 selection along with new teammates Johnson and Murray.
“I do think we have one of the strongest classes we have ever had,” Rosen said. “Jess Mruzik has won literally every award given out. Her alone would make our class great, but we also have Scottee Johnson coming in as a setter and I think she is one of the top three in the class. She will be a great fit for our team and fill in well with the graduation of Mackenzi Welsh. Kendall Murray was a finalist for the Michigan Gatorade player of the year behind Jess, and Brooke Humphrey will convert from outside hitter in high school and club to libero here.”
One of the voting panelists added these thoughts: “Jess Mruzik is a beast and Scottee Johnson will love putting balls up for her throughout her career.”
Mruzik was voted the No. 2 recruit in the class during Fab 50 voting behind only Minnesota signee Landfair. The Wolverines also added two transfers in in-state product Grant (Michigan State transfer and an alum of the Legacy VBC) and Liu, who played previously at JUCO Blinn College in Texas.
7. Florida Gators
Who is new in Gainesville: Birdie Hendrickson (6-2, S, Logan-Rogersville (Missouri), Springfield Jrs.), Elli McKissock (5-7, Libero, First Academy (Orlando, Florida), Top Select), Nnedi Okammor (6-4, MB, Hebron (Carrollton, Texas), TAV), Sofia Victoria (6-1, OH, Notre Dame (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Gator thoughts: Florida is in the recruiting top 10 for the second time in three years (No. 2-ranked class in 2018) and third in the last five years thanks to this collection of talent that features VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selections in Hendrickson, McKissock and Okammor. Victoria is a six-rotation outside from Puerto Rico and has international experience with the Puerto Rican women’s national team. Her sister, Pilar Victoria, once led the country in kills per set at Arkansas.
“Sofia is a great competitor who enjoys playing on big scenarios,” said Florida coach Mary Wise when the signings were announced in the fall. “She likes to be the player ‘to go to’ on tough moments as she has shown on national and international scenarios.”
One panelist opined that Okammor and McKissock could find playing time early in their Florida careers, while Hendrickson’s versatility gives the Gators the option to run a 6-2 system.
“Florida’s class is athletic, has a high volleyball IQ, elite skills and they know how to win,” the pollster added.
Tie, 8. UCLA Bruins
Who is new in Westwood: Skylar Canady (6-1, OH, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco, California, Vision), Zoe Fleck (5-6, Libero, transfer from UC Santa Barbara), Allison Jacobs (5-11, OH, West Ranch (Stevenson Ranch, California), Legacy), Kate Lane (6-0, S-RS, Palos Verdes (Palos Verdes Estates, California), Surfside), elan McCall (6-0, OH, transfer from Texas Christian), Iman Ndiaye (6-2, RS-OH, Plano West (Texas), TAV), Audrey Pak (5-10, S, Campolindo (Moraga, California), Vision)
Bruin thoughts: The Bruins have a good mixture of newcomers and transfers with this class. Jacobs and Ndiaye are both 2020 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 selections. Ndiaye also was a 2019 VolleyballMag.com girls high school first-team All-American pick. Fleck transferred in from UC Santa Barbara, while McCall is a recent transfer from Texas Christian where she had a monster freshman season in 2018 where she led the Big 12 Conference in both kills and points per set.
“The transfer of Zoe Fleck is huge,” one panelist noted. “She could be one of the best liberos in the country. Ndiaye switching from Penn State to UCLA is big-time. She could be a great option for UCLA. Jacobs and Canady are two solid athletes who should do well in their offensive system.”
Canady and Pak are both from the Bay Area and the Vision club.
Tie, 8. Ohio State Buckeyes
Who is new in Columbus: Emily Londot (6-4, RS, Utica (Ohio), Mintonette), Sarah Sue Morbitzer (5-6, DS, Hamilton Township (Columbus, Ohio), Mintonette), Rylee Rader (6-3, MB, Assumption (Louisville, Kentucky), KIVA)
Buckeye thoughts: One panelist labeled the Buckeyes’ 2020 class as “small, but loaded.” That certainly is the case when you have a player such as Landot, who is VolleyballMag.com’s No. 4-ranked recruit in the class of 2020. New Ohio State coach and Buckeye alum Jen Flynn Oldenburg also has newcomers in Rader (a Kentucky native who was a standout in both the high school and club arenas) and Morbitzer (a local Columbus girl also from the Mintonette club program who grew up going to Ohio State matches).
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Who is new in Lincoln: Keonilei Akana (5-9, DS, Kamehameha Kapalama (Honolulu, Hawai’i), Ku’ikahi), Annika Evans (5-9, S, Waverly (Nebraska), VC Nebraska), Abby Johnson (6-4, MB-RS, Breese (Illinois) Central, H2 Sports Worldwide), Kalynn Meyer (6-3, MB, Superior (Nebraska), VC Nebraska)
Husker thoughts: Meyer is a 2020 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 selection, and a two-time Lincoln Journal Star girls athlete of the year award winner. Evans also is a local product out of the VC Nebraska club (founded by Huskers alum Maggie Griffin), while Johnson caught the Nebraska staff’s eye at a 2019 summer camp where she was named outstanding player. Akana was a late add for the Huskers. She was originally headed to USC, but was released from her scholarship after the Trojans switched head coaches. She was named the Honolulu Star-Advertiser player of the year and All-Hawaii girls player of the year.
“Keonilei is a big-time get for us,” Nebraska coach John Cook told the school’s athletic website last month. “She is one of the best ball-control players in the country in this class. We are expecting her to come in and compete for playing time in the libero/defensive specialist position from day one.”
Honorable Mention Spotlight
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Several panelists brought up the solid class Notre Dame is bringing into South Bend for the 2020 season.
That list includes Girls Fab 50 selections Lindsey Miller, a 6-4 middle from the Coast program in the San Diego area, and Adversity VBC standout libero Hattie Monson, who had success last fall as part of the Illinois Class 4A-state-champion Benet Academy squad and earned VolleyballMag.com girls high school All-American first-team accolades.
Also in this class is 6-2 outside hitter Aubrey Hamilton from Arrowhead High School in Hartland, Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee Sting club.
“Notre Dame could be the sleeper class; really nice, solid talent that should do really well in the ACC for them,” one voter said.