Fairfield: “That’s maybe one of the headlines for this team. They found a way to win.”
November 27, 2023
July 22, 2021
In a year punctuated by unprecedented chaos, there still is some certainty in the women’s college volleyball realm.
And that’s certainly apparent in the annual VolleyballMag.com ranking of NCAA recruiting classes presented by Academy Volleyball of Indianapolis.
In this year’s VBM ranking of the top 10 college classes, plus honorable mention, the usual suspects sit atop the leaderboard,. But some of the sport’s newer high-rollers are starting to make their presence very known on the national recruiting front and among their peers.
As always, this year’s rankings, were voted on by a panel of NCAA Division I coaches. These rankings take into consideration transfers and international additions. Many of the programs had players transfer out, but they don’t figure into incoming classes.
Little doubt was left as to who has the top incoming class this fall. Coach John Cook’s Nebraska Huskers secured the top spot, earning all but one first-place vote.
Stanford, which was voted no lower than fourth on any ballot and consistently No. 2, took second, followed by Russ Rose’s Penn State Nittany Lions, who earned their highest ranking in this space since taking the top spot in 2018.
All of three of those teams face each other this season. Nebraska goes to Stanford on September 14, and, of course, plays Penn State twice in the Big Ten. Penn State and Stanford square off at Oregon on September 11.
These rankings definitely translate to top-level success.
This marks Nebraska’s sixth year in a row in the top 10. The Huskers were 10th in 2016, sixth in 2017, fifth in 2018, second in 2019 and 10th in 2020. Not surprisingly, Nebraska won it all in 2017 and lost in the championship match in 2018.
Stanford earned its fifth top-10 nod in the last six years, finishing first in 2016, 10th in 2017, first in 2019 and fifth in 2020. Stanford won it all in 2016, 2018, and 2019, and made it to the 2017 national semifinals, the year that Kevin Hambly took over.
USC and second-year coach Brad Keller returns to the top five for the first time since 2016 (when it was No. 3), checking in at No. 4, while defending NCAA champion Kentucky was fifth (after firing off a No. 2 class in 2020).
The rest of the top 10 shows Baylor at No. 6, BYU at No. 7 (No. 9 in 2019, No. 7 in 2018), Creighton at No. 8, Minnesota was ninth (first appearance since No. 4 class in 2017) and Wisconsin rounded things out at No. 10. (No. 4 last year). Baylor and Creighton make their first top-10 appearances over the last six years.
Of note, only five voting points separated Baylor from Minnesota (No. 6 to No. 9) and there was a span of two voting points between BYU at No. 7 and Hugh McCutcheon’s Golden Gophers’ unit at No. 9.
1. Nebraska Huskers
Notable: This class is absolutely loaded with talent with three of the top five players as rated by VolleyballMag.com. Lindsay Krause (6-3, OH, Premier Nebraska) is the No. 1 recruit in the class, while Kennedi Orr (6-0, S, Northern Lights) is No. 3 and Gatorade national player of the year Ally Batenhorst (6-4, OH, Houston Jrs.) is No. 4. Also headed to Lincoln is Illinois standout Lexi Rodriguez (5-7, Libero-DS, Fusion), along with local products Whitney Lauenstein (6-0, OH, VC Nebraska) and Rylee Gray (6-4, MB, Nebraska Elite). All are 2021 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 selections and Krause was named the 2020 VBM fall girls high school player of the year.
“Because of their accomplishments on the national and world stage, the expectations will be very high, but that is why you go to Nebraska,” Cook told the school’s athletic website (Huskers.com). “When they start (this fall), they will be freshmen, figuring out how to be away from home, adjust to college life and Husker volleyball.” As one voter put it, “So much talent in one class. The top setter, top lefts and top libero.”
2. Stanford Cardinal
Notable: When you have two of the top five incoming folks in the country, a No. 2 ranking is a high probability, and that’s exactly what Stanford has with Sami Francis (6-6, OH-RS, Coast VBC) and Mizuno Long Beach setting product Kami Miner. Francis was the No. 2 recruit and Miner the No. 5 recruit in VolleyballMag.com’s 2021 Girls Fab 50 rankings. Also incoming to The Farm are Taylor Beaven (DS, Rockwood Thunder VBC), Kalissa Greene (S, A5) and Miya Tillman (DS-OH, Texstar). Greene is another VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 pick.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions
Notable: An interesting case study here. As one voter wrote, Penn State would be ranked lower based on its 2021 recruits, but when you add in the key outside hitting transfers of Erika Pritchard (Maryland) and Adanna Rollins (Minnesota), “they have a top class,” the voter noted. Penn State received the other first-place vote and was voted no lower than fifth on any ballot. In total, Rose has nine newcomers headed to Happy Valley, including the three transfers. “The transfers provide us experience at the pins,” Rose told VBM. “The size of the class will provide us with the depth necessary to compete in our conference, and the younger players will have the chance to learn as well as contribute.” Transfers aside, Rose also adds in 2021 Fab 50 selections in Rachel Muisenga (6-1, S, Adversity), Anjelina Strack (6-2, RS-S, Colorado Jrs.) and Erika Williams (6-1, MB, Houston Jrs.) among its five incoming freshmen.
4. USC Trojans
Notable: USC has seven total newcomers, including four transfers in Paige Hammons (6-1, graduate transfer from Florida, OH), Shannon Scully (6-2, graduate transfer from Pepperdine, OH), Mia Tuaniga (Long Beach State transfer with freshman standing, S) and Sabrina Smith (6-3, graduate transfer from UCLA, MB). Incoming freshmen include Tyrah Ariail (6-1, MB out of Frisco, Texas), Katelyn Smith (6-3, RS) and Elle Glock (6-1, S, out of Nebraska). “When you add in the transfers with Paige Hammons, Shannon Scully and Mia Tuaniga — a top-five class, for sure,” one voter wrote. Ariail, Smith and Glock all are 2021 VBM Girls Fab 50 picks.
5. Kentucky Wildcats
Notable: The defending NCAA champions put a bow on UK’s recruiting class in late December with the addition of highly regarded libero Eleanor Beavin out of Louisville, Kentucky, and the Union volleyball club, giving the Wildcats four 2021 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 seletions. Beavin joins fellow Fab 50s in Emma Grome (5-9, S, Tri-State), Erin Lamb (6-2, OH, Northern Lights) and Jordyn Williams (6-2, MB, TAV) on the newcomers list for coach Craig Skinner.
6. Baylor Bears
Notable: A key Baylor pick up is Kentucky graduate-transfer Avery Skinner (OH), a 2020-2021 a VolleyballMag.com first-team All-American. She heads to Waco along with an incoming recruiting class that features 10 players, including Alicia Andrew (6-4, MB out of Washington state), Molly Kipp (6-0, S, out of Phoenix), Faith Lynch (5-7, S-DS out of Magnolia, Texas), Elise McGhee (6-4, RS out of San Antonio), Keagan Polk (5-8, libero-DS out of Southlake, Texas), Kaitlyn Riley (6-1, MB out of Wisconsin), Riley Simpson (6-4, OH-RS out of Colorado Springs, Colorado), Lauren Briseno (libero-DS out of San Antonio) and Ava Grace Haggard (6-1, MB out of Prosper, Texas), as well as Cal graduate transfer Preslie Anderson (6-2, MB). “Massive class, plus first-team All-American Avery Skinner,” wrote one voter. Simpson is a VBM Girls Fab 50 selection.
7. BYU Cougars
Notable: The Cougars did quite well for themselves with this class, which features a blend of transfers and incoming freshmen. The transfers include VBM fourth-team All-American Kenzie Koerber (6-3, RS, Utah), Aria McComber (5-6, Libero, Washington State) and Gretchen Reinert (5-6, Libero, Santa Clara). Freshmen newcomers are Elyse Stowell (6-2, OH, TStreet), Bri Albright (6-3, MB, TStreet), Sophia Callahan (6-2, OH, Coast), Zayna Meyer (6-1, S, Sports Performance) and Alyssa Montoya (6-1, OH, AZ East Valley). “Top 10 recruiting in Stowell and Kenzie Koerber as a transfer from Utah,” one voter offered. Stowell and Albright are 2021 VBM Girls Fab 50 selections, while Meyer tied for the 51st spot in the rankings.
8. Creighton Bluejays
Notable: One voter thought Creighton got the best of both worlds with this class. “A top-10 setter and brought in the best libero transfer,” the voter wrote. The top 10 setter is Kendra Wait (5-10) out of the MAVS VBC and Gartner-Edgerton High School in Kansas. She’s a 2021 VBM Girls Fab 50 pick. The libero transfer is 5-6 DS and Virginia Beach, Virginia, native Abby Bottomley from High Point University, another VBM fourth-teamer. The rest of the class isn’t too shabby either with Nebraska product Norah Sis (6-2, OH), along with Eve Magill (6-5, OH, Six Pack VBC) and Abby Milner (6-3, MB, Minnesota One VBC). Sis and Magill also joined Wait on the 2021 Fab 50 list.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Notable: McCutcheon’s incoming class includes the likes of Lauren Crowl (6-4, OH-RS, Northern Lights), Natalie Glenn (5-10, OH-RS, TAV), Skylar Gray (5-10, OH-DS, MN Select) and Anna Wolf (6-4, MB, MN Select). “Minnesota is bringing in a lot of top-100 recruits,” one voter wrote. Glenn and Wolf earned 2021 VBM Girls Fab 50 honors.
10. Wisconsin Badgers
Notable: Lauren Jardine (6-3, OH) was a 2021 VolleyballMag.com Girls Fab 50 selection. Coach Kelly Sheffield also is bringing in 6-9 MB Anna Smrek from Welland, Ontario, along with 6-0 outside hitter Julia Orzol from Poland, and transfers Sydney Reed (5-6, Libero-DS) from North Carolina and Joslyn Boyer (5-6, Libero-DS) from Iowa.
Honorable Mention: Florida, LSU, Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pitt, Purdue, Texas, UCLA, Washington.