Transfers have made a huge impact this season in NCAA volleyball.
We ranked the top 12 and include an honorable-mention list of players who have changed the landscape in 2018.
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Transfer athletes face a tough assignment when they arrive on campus at a new school. They have to get used to a new coach, new teammates, and a new city, all the while trying to prove themselves in a gym and earn a spot on the court.
But transfers often serve as lifelines for coaches looking to replenish a roster after injuries, replace graduated stars, or fill holes left by unexpected transfers out of their programs. Sometimes transfers come or go in waves.
In the case of 2018, transfers have made a tremendous impact in NCAA Division I volleyball.
For example, five players departed Maryland after coach Steve Aird announced his decision to take over at Indiana at the end of last season. A few of those players have found perfect new homes and are making major impacts on the court, and four of the five Maryland transfers appear poised to make the NCAA tournament with their new teams.
Other times the flow of transfer talent goes into a program, like at Missouri, where head coach Wayne Kreklow added six transfers to his roster ahead of the 2018 season, four of whom have played significant roles.
We analyzed the contributions of transfers across the country and identified these 12 athletes as the most impactful transfers of the 2018 season to date (all stats as of November 9).
12. Nicole Alford, Maryland, Sophomore, Setter
Nicole Alford’s decision to transfer to Maryland after playing one season at Georgia Tech marked a return home for the Annapolis native. Her contributions have been key in Maryland’s record-breaking season in which the Terps have so far won eight Big Ten games, more than in any of the previous five seasons since joining the conference. The 6-1 sophomore is just 17 assists away from 1,000 assists and has added 39 kills, 182 digs, and 45 blocks.
11. Keyton Kinley, Oklahoma, Sophomore, Libero
Oklahoma went 7-22 in 2017, and new blood in the form of transfers and freshmen have played a significant role in helping the Sooners turn things around post a 15-10 record so far this season.
One of those transfers, Keyton Kinley came to Norman from Tennessee, where she played a limited role as a freshman defensive specialist last year. As the starting libero for Oklahoma, however, Kinley’s role is a significant one, and with 4.98 digs per set she leads the conference and has twice been named defensive player of the week.
10. Jasmine Gross, USC, Junior, Middle Blocker
Last year, as a sophomore at Pepperdine, Jasmine Gross ranked fourth in the NCAA in blocks per set (1.52) and earned a spot on the All-WCC first team, in addition to averaging 2.98 kills per set and at a .346 clip.
With 62 total blocks (1.11/set), Gross now leads the defensive effort at the net for her new team, USC, in addition to contributing 191 kills, hitting .322.
9. Kylie Deberg, Missouri, Sophomore, Outside
None of Missouri head coach Wayne Kreklow’s six transfers has been as pivotal to the Tigers’ success as Kylie Deberg. The 6-4 outside hitter from Iowa mostly sat the bench as a freshman at Illinois last fall, but she’s played a starring role for Missouri, racking up a team-high 341 kills and 46 aces as she’s led the team to a 21-5 (11-3 SEC) record.
A decorated prep career saw Deberg rack up more than 1,000 career kills and earn first team All-State honors, in addition to ranking as the No. 15 recruit in the Class of 2017.
8. Kylee McLaughlin, Oklahoma, Sophomore, Setter
Kylee McLaughlin’s resume is filled with prestigious awards: Texas Gatorade Player of the Year, AVCA High School All-American, Texas District 5-6A Setter of the Year, Dallas Morning News Player of the Year, and then last year, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year as the starting setter for Oregon State.
With McLaughlin quarterbacking, Oregon State, which went 12-19 in 2016, posted a 20-12 record last fall and made the NCAA tournament. Without McLaughlin, Oregon State is now 11-17 and 1-15 in the Pac-12, meanwhile Oklahoma has already far surpassed its 2017 performance and boasts a 15-10 overall record.
7. Samantha Drechsel, Washington, Sophomore, Outside Hitter
As a freshman opposite at Maryland, Samantha Drechsel averaged 1.94 kills per set on a .161 attack percentage. This year, Drechsel is living on the opposite coast and playing on the other pin as an outside hitter for Washington.
The 6-4 Washington native ranks second on the squad with 291 kills, hitting .212, in addition to ranking fourth on the team with 49 blocks.
6. Lexi Sun, Nebraska, Sophomore, Outside Hitter
Lexi Sun’s first season in Husker red has not been perfect. The top recruit in the class of 2017, who transferred out of Texas after one season, missed the first eight matches of 2018 due to an undisclosed injury. Since claiming her spot in the starting lineup, Sun has struggled with errors and is averaging just a .176 hitting percentage.
Even so, Sun ranks third on the No. 6-ranked Nebraska squad with 202 total kills, and in the November 7 sweep of Iowa, the California native posted her best hitting percentage of the season, smashing 12 kills with just two errors for a .400 clip.
5. Emily Baptista, USC, Junior, Opposite
One of a handful of transfers from the University of Pacific playing significant roles on top teams across the country, Emily Baptista has helped USC hold onto its No. 2 spot in the Pac-12 standings, starting in 24 of the Trojans’ 26 matches and contributing 281 kills (third-highest on the team).
Just recently, in USC’s matchup with Washington on November 9, Baptista led the team with 24 kills, doing her best to make up for the absence of the Trojans’ kills leaders Khalia Lanier and Brooke Botkin (both out with concussions).
4. Payton Caffrey, Florida State, Junior, Outside Hitter
A three-time Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week, Payton Caffrey currently leads the conference in kills with 393 (4.37 per set, 22nd in NCAA DI) in her first season in Tallahassee. The West Virginia transfer has also added a team third-best 159 digs and team-leading 21 aces as she has played a leading role in the Seminoles 16-8 (10-1 ACC) season to date.
As a sophomore at West Virginia in 2017, Caffrey ranked second in the Big 12 in kills (245), third in kills per set (3.77), third in points per set 4.42 and led the Big 12 in both service aces (29, 0.45 per set) and total points (287).
3. Madelyn Cole, Creighton, Junior, Setter
Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal-Booth had her work cut out for her to replace graduated first-team All-American setter Lydia Dimke at the end of 2017, but Marshall transfer Madelyn Cole has so far done a fantastic job quarterbacking the deadly Bluejay offense, which ranks 23rd nationally with a .260 team hitting percentage. Cole, who earned a spot on the 2016 Conference USA all-freshman Team, is averaging 10.81 assists per set to lead the Big East and has also added 59 kills, 57 blocks, 228 digs, and a team-high 34 aces.
2. Ashlyn Fleming, Illinois, Junior, Middle Blocker
As a freshman and sophomore at the University of Pacific, Ashlyn Fleming played a starring role, hitting .337 with 2.40 kills per set in her rookie season and improving to .347 with 2.44 kills per set last fall. She also led her team in blocks as a sophomore, totaling 125.
Now a junior at the University of Illinois, Fleming continues to get better, even against the tough competition of the Big Ten. With just a few weeks left in the regular season, the 6-4 San Jose, California, native leads the No. 4-ranked Fighting Illini with a .411 hitting percentage and ranks second on the team with 94 total blocks.
1. Taylor Leath, Penn State, Graduate Student, Outside Hitter
How do you keep improving upon a career that includes ACC Player of the Year and second-team All-American honors? If you’re Taylor Leath, you transfer from North Carolina to Penn State to pursue your graduate degree and play your final year of eligibility for one of the most decorated women’s volleyball programs of all time. Oh, and of course, you earn a starting spot and rank second on the team with 229 kills and 190 digs.
Leath’s veteran presence has proved to be incredibly valuable for the young, No. 7-ranked Penn State squad, which graduated a massive and very impactful group of seniors after the 2017 season.