It is way too early to know but it is never too early to talk about volleyball. As we finish with the school year let’s dream about the fall season and volleyball that is to come. This is what I think the top ten will look like in the fall of 2019.
Stanford returns everyone except star middle hitter Tami Alade. The fabulous recruiting class of 2017 that won championships as freshmen and juniors are back as seniors. The duo of Kathryn Plummer, with her amazing hammer of an arm on the outside, and Jenna Gray, the dynamic setter, is back.
Morgan Hentz will start at libero, she’s a difference maker in every game. Audriana Fitzmoris, 6’6” right side hitter, will feature again, as well. She can block the sun, and hit a few hammers herself. All these seniors are one year better. Did I mention they also signed three players rated in the top 5 of high school recruits? Heavy favorite to be the #1 seed.
Nebraska lost two phenomenal players in Kenzie Maloney and Michaela Foecke. They are a new team with new faces. Those newcomers will dazzle and delight right up to a high ranking spot in the top ten. Coach Cook has some options with outside hitters.
You remember Capri Davis playing a few rotations last year. Freshman, Madi Kubik graduated high school early and participated in spring and beach season with the Husks.
I expect the outside hitter position to move around from player to player not because there is a problem but because the young players are learning the game and need time to watch as well as experience. The Huskers recruiting class last year was ranked #2 by prepvolleyball.com so expect to see those freshmen on the court in the fall.
Wisconsin brings back all but one starter from last season’s Elite Eight team. Tiana Williams, MB, graduated. The duo of setter Sydney Hilley and 6’8” MB Dan Rettke in middle make a hard combo to defend.
Add Madison Duello (6’3”) on the right side and the block and attack game is strong for Wisconsin. They have a tough schedule with 11 matches against teams that made it to the sweet 16 in 2018. This makes them better for a tournament run, although don’t be surprised to see them with a few losses early in the season.
Illinois lost their All American setter Jordyn Poulter and middle blocker Ali Bastianelli, but return the rest of the starters and added a former professional player, Bruna Vrankovic, an outside hitter from Croatia.
The Fighting Illini also added a transfer from Auburn, Mica Allison. She’s an Illinois native, and was the 2017 Illinois volleyball Gatorade player of the year. While at Auburn she was named to the SEC all freshman team, so look for immediate contribution from her.
loses their senior setter from last season, Samantha Seliger-Swenson. Don’t underestimate how big of a deal losing her is, she was a four time All American. Losing a setter like that is like losing a starting quarterback; she ran the team.
Despite that, they bring back some high flying, spectacular outside hitters and add transfer setter Kylie Miller from UCLA and former Japanese national team player, Airi Miyabe, a 6’0” outside hitter. A transfer is a good answer to the missing link in the setter position.
BYU showed us over and over that they are here to stay in the volleyball world. Last year they graduated pivotal players on the court, but look to be reloading with a great recruiting class along with some returning players chomping at the bit to get on the court.
All American libero Mary Lake returns. Her leadership along with outside hitter McKenna Miller is enough to keep this team in the top 10.
Texas returns much of lasts years team and adds two top 50 players from the high school list. Skylar Fields was the #1 recruit last year and Molly Phillips was in the top 50. If they can contribute right away, Texas will look to make another Final Four run.
8. Penn State
Penn State’s head coach Russ Rose can coach. He takes super talented, but not always elite women and makes them national championship ready every year. He will do it again this year.
Four starters return from the team that lost to last year’s champion, Stanford, in the regional. I do have questions about the setting position for Penn State. If they can’t effectively fill that position, look for a drop off from the Nittany Lions in the highly competitive Big Ten.
Oregon graduated key players from their highly successful 2018 team. Oregon upset #2 ranked Minnesota in the tournament last year before losing to Nebraska in the elite 8. Their offense is exciting and fast under their second year head coach Matt Ulmer.
Expect their highly touted recruiting class, ranked 7th in the nation according to prepvolleyball.com, to keep them in the national conversation. I like them as the Pac-12 Champion pick.
Kentucky is pushing to be a volleyball name. They haven’t been somebody to talk about in the volleyball world but with a sweet 16 appearance last year and 14 straight NCAA appearances they seem to be moving up.
They have a solid recruiting class in the wings. Kentucky beat a solid Purdue team in the second round of the tournament before losing to Nebraska last year. They only lost one from last years starters and added some freshman that will potentially contribute immediately.
Kentucky, Florida, U of Washington, USC, Baylor and Colorado. I expect all these teams to be easy inside the top 25 and likely the top 10 through the season.