Women’s Top 10 Recruiting Classes

Russ Rose proves once again, he's the top recruiter in the nation.
Penn State Athletics
Russ Rose proves once again, he's the top recruiter in the nation.

1. Penn State

Incoming: Ali Frantti, 6'2", OH, Richmond, Ill.; Simone Lee, 6'1", OH, Menomonee Falls, Wis.; Lainy Pierce, 5'8", DS, Eden, N.Y.; Nia Reed, 6'2", MB/OH, Washington Township, N.J.; Heidi Thelen, 6'2", MB, Park Hills, Ky.; Haleigh Washington, 6'3", MB, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Bryanna Weiskircher, 6'0", S, Rockford, Ill.

Many regard this haul as one of the greatest in the history of the women’s game. The defending NCAA champions got a lot richer thanks to the addition of six 2014 Volleyball Fab 50 selections.

2. USC

Incoming: Brittany Abercrombie, 6'2", Opp., Carlsbad, Calif.; Jordan Dunn, 6'4", MB, Corona, Calif.; Lauryn Gillis, 6'2", OH, New Castle, Ind.; Taylor Wheatley, 6'2", OH, Orange, Calif.

This class features three Fab 50 selections in Abercrombie, Dunn, and Gillis. Abercrombie was a Volleyball Girls’ High School All-American selection, while Gillis was the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012.

3. Purdue

Incoming: Christina Ambrose, 6'3", OH, Winter Park, Fla.; Danielle Cuttino, 6'4", MB, Indianapolis, Ind.; Carissa Damler, 5'4", DS, Brownsburg, Ind.; Lydia Dimke, 6'2" S/OH, Ham Lake, Minn.; Burgundy Price, 5'6", DS, Woodburn, Ind.; Linnea Rohrsen, 5'3", DS, Chicago, Ill.; Azariah Stahl, 5'10", OH, Elkhart, Ind.

Purdue coach Dave Shondell snared some of the top talent from not only the Midwest, but the country as well. Ambrose won a litany of prep awards in Florida, including being named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013. New teammate Stahl was the 2013 Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year. Purdue tied with Michigan for having the second-most Fab 50 selections in this class with four.

4. Washington

Incoming: Crissy Jones, 6'2", MB, Los Alamitos, Calif.; Reni Meyer-Whalley, 5'6", DS, Los Angeles, Calif.; Tia Scambray, 6'0", OH, Dana Point, Calif.; Courtney Schwan, 6'2", OH, Tacoma, Wash.

The Huskies did just fine for themselves with three Fab 50 choices in Jones, Scambray, and Schwan. Scambray brings USA Volleyball international experience to the table, while Jones was named the CIF-SS co-Player of the Year in 2013. Schwan won the Gatorade Washington state POY honor two times.

5. Florida

Incoming: Rhamat Alhassan, 6'5", MB, Kensington, Md.; Abby Detering, 6'1", S, Mentor, Ohio; Sam Dubiel, 5'7", L, Wheaton, Ill.; Lindsey Rogers, 6'0", DS, Tallahassee, Fla.; Carli
Snyder, 6'1", OH, Macomb Township, Mich.

Coach Mary Wise calls Alhassan arguably the best athlete in the class and notes this group will compete for immediate playing time in Gainesville. The 2014 Florida class features three Volleyball Fab 50 selections in Alhassan, Detering, and Snyder.

6. Michigan State

Incoming: Alyssa Garvelink, 6'4", MB/Opp., Holland, Mich.; Rachel Minarick, 6'2", S, Aurora, Ill.; Abby Monson, 5'6", L, Lakeville, Minn.; Holly Toliver, 6'2", OH/Opp., Berrien Springs, Mich.

Thanks to having three 2014 Fab 50 selections (Garvelink, Minarick, and Toliver), the Spartans are one of five Big Ten Conference teams that appear in the Volleyball Top 10 rankings. Head coach Cathy George will have a lot to work with as Minarick brings her Sports Performance pedigree to the squad, while Toliver was a three-time all-state pick in Michigan.

7. Michigan

Incoming: Claire Kieffer-Wright, 6'1", MB, South Pasadena, Calif.; Caroline Knop, 5'9", L, Pasadena, Calif.; Adeja Lambert, 6'3", OH, Rockford, Ill.; Katherine Mahlke, 6'1", Opp., Downers Grove, Ill.

Only Penn State bagged more Fab 50 selections this year. Michigan tied with Purdue for second on that prestigious list with four: Kieffer-Wright, Knop, Lambert, and Mahlke.

8. Nebraska

Incoming: Annika Albrecht, 5'11", OH, Naperville, Ill.; Olivia Boender, 6'2", OH, Waverly, Neb.; Maddie Haggerty, 6'2", OH, Wheaton, Ill.; Sydney Townsend, 5'9", L, Lincoln, Neb.

Boender and Haggerty both are Fab 50 selections. Coach John Cook notes Albrecht, Boender, and Haggerty give the Huskers three six-rotation players, while Townsend “is a great libero/defensive specialist who can ball-handle.” Albrecht and Haggerty both come from the Sports Performance program, while Boender and Townsend are two outstanding local talents.

9. Oregon

Incoming: Taylor Agost, 6'2", OH/MB, Happy Valley, Ore.; Marine Hall-Poirier, 5'11", OH, Portola Valley, Calif.; Alex Hojnar, 5'9", DS, La Grange, Ill.; Maggie Scott, 5'10", S, Wildwood, Mo.; Frankie Shebby, 6'0", OH, La Mirada, Calif.

Coach Jim Moore feels his class contains players who “all have the ability to compete on the floor immediately.” Shebby was a Volleyball Fab 50 selection this year, while Scott was a standout at Lafayette High School in Missouri and is one of the most dynamic setters in the class.

10. Cal

Incoming: Hannah Aguirre, 5'7", L, Mountain View, Calif.; Christine Alftin, 6'0", OH, Woodside, Calif.; Gabrielle deGuzman, 5'5", L, Los Angeles, Calif.; Antzela Dempi, 6'2", OH/Opp., Thessaloniki, Greece; Sammy Furlan, 5'8", S/L, Manhattan Beach, Calif.; Laura Leap, 6'5", MB, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Kristen Shekelle, 6'1", S, Venice, Calif.; Ashten Smith-Gooden, 6'2", OH, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

The Bears kept things mostly in-state and walked away with a voluminous and impressive 2014 class headlined by Smith-Gooden, who was a 2014 Volleyball Fab 50 selection. Furlan comes from the Mira Costa High School program and earned Bay League Most Outstanding Player honors in 2013. Dempi hails from Greece and brings a wealth of international experience to the table.

Honorable Mention

Auburn, Duke, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Long Beach State, LSU, Minnesota, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, San Diego, Texas A&M, Wisconsin

National Champ Penn State Tops List

As one veteran women’s coach noted, it would be hard to top Penn State’s recruiting class this year.

It might be hard to top it any year.

The defending NCAA-champion Nittany Lions got even better with a recruiting class that is regarded by many as one of the all-time best.

Thus, Penn State was the runaway and unanimous choice for the No. 1 position in the 2014 Volleyball Women’s Top 10 Recruiting Classes. The top classes were voted on by a panel of more than 20 NCAA Division I coaches.

This year’s Nittany Lion class features six 2014 Volleyball Fab 50 selections in Ali Frantti (OH), Simone Lee (OH), Heidi Thelen (MB), Haleigh Washington (MB), Nia Reed (OH/MB), and Bryanna Weiskircher (S). Washington was named the 2013 Volleyball Girls’ High School Player of the Year.

Franti, Lee, and Pierce already have experience in State College, having graduated high school early and enrolled at Penn State in January.

“I like the athleticism of the group and the ability to fill a number of openings we have at different positions,” Penn State coach Russ Rose said. “All have the tools to play. Washington and Lee are touching close to 11 feet. Bryanna has the skills and experience to contribute as a freshman and Heidi has the frame to contribute as she gains strength.”

The race for the second spot in the rankings was a tight one between USC and Purdue, with USC ultimately holding only a two-point advantage over the Boilermakers, who have made quite a statement with their 2014 additions.

“This is the most athletic class in school history with both size and versatility,” Boilermakers coach Dave Shondell said.

Shondell noted Danielle Cuttino (OH), Azariah Stahl (OH), and Christina Ambrose (OH)—all Fab 50 picks—play high above the net, while Lydia Dimke “is a jack-of-all-trades.”

Purdue also benefits from the addition of back-row players Carissa Damler, Burgundy Price, and Linnea Rohrsen.

“These three defensive dynamos will add depth and skill to the back-court group,” Shondell added.

USC’s No. 2 class is relatively small, featuring only four athletes, but with three Fab 50 selections in Brittany Abercrombie (OH), Jordan Dunn (MB), and Lauryn Gillis (OH) and the all-around ball control talent of Taylor Wheatley (OH) from Villa Park, Califorina, the Trojans should be well on their way to filling holes left by the graduated Natalie Hagglund, Alexis Olgard, and Sara Shaw.

While Purdue and USC battled it out for No. 2, Washington and Florida were neck-and-neck for the No. 4 position on the 2014 list. The Huskies snared the fourth spot by only four points.

The Big Ten Conference scored five spots in the top 10 this year with the above-mentioned Penn State and Purdue, as well as Michigan, Nebraska, and Michigan State.

The MSU Spartans netted three Fab 50 selections in Alyssa Garvelink (MB/Opp.), Rachel Minarick (S), and Holly Toliver (OH/Opp.).

“Our class has a very strong player in each position who combines athleticism, skill, and competitiveness,” Michigan State coach Cathy George said. “Not only are they good now, but they look to go to even further heights with additional experience.”

George said Garvelink is a hidden gem in the class. “We believe she will shock many with her physicality and aggressiveness.”

Oregon, one of three Pac-12 teams in the top 10, will benefit from a strong class that features the likes of Taylor Agost (OH/MB), Marine Hall-Poirier (OH), Alex Hojnar (DS), Maggie Scott (S), and Frankie Shebby (OH). Ducks coach Jim Moore labels this group the best recruiting class in program history.

“Maggie Scott is a winner at every level who runs a fast-tempo attack and will fit in nicely,” Moore said. “Frankie is a six-rotation terminator who brings a lot of big-game experience. Taylor is one of the best athletes in the whole 2014 class and can play any of the front-row positions.”

• • •

While the top 10 recruiting classes certainly do impress, they do not totally eclipse these notables from the honorable-mention group.

San Diego, a constant presence in the national rankings during the 2013 season, improved itself with the addition of foreign players Jayden Kennedy (Canada) and Merve Tanyel (Turkey), as well as with transfer Canace Finley (Oregon). Kennedy has the ability to play all the front-row positions. Tanyel played on the Turkish junior national team and spent time with the senior team. She is known as a ball-control standout with a good repertoire of shots. Finley, who stands 6'4", started for two years at Oregon and was part of the NCAA runner-up team her freshman year. Setter Kristen Gengenbacher is an under-the-radar pick recommended to the San Diego staff by women’s great Caren Kemner.

Ohio State coach Geoff Carlston is excited about his group, which includes the likes of New York prep standout Luisa Schirmer and 6'3" lefty Ashley Wenz. Schirmer is a 2014 Fab 50 pick. “Luisa is going to be a very special kid,” Carlston said. The Buckeyes also added Middle Tennessee State transfer Tyler Richardson, who ranked 13th in the nation last year in hitting percentage.

LSU’s class is headlined by Fab 50 selection Mylan Eugene (OH). “The athleticism of our class is what we are most excited about,” Tigers coach Fran Flory said. “We have a great balance in terms of positions. The abilities and skill sets of these players fit right into our program and system.”

Duke coach Jolene Nagel is thrilled about the addition of Cadie Bates, who plays club for Wave in Carlsbad, California. “Cadie has the size, skills, and explosiveness to play high as an outside hitter and be able to block,” she said. “She also can play right side.” The Blue Devils also added KC Power club star middle hitter Anna Kropf. “Anna is very mobile and really explosive off one foot,” said Nagel. Turkey native Emma Paradiso and Nicole Elattrache of Studio City, California, will help defensively and in the setting department.

The key addition in the North Carolina group is Fab 50 pick Beth Nordhorn. Coach Joe Sagula noted Nordhorn, at 6'6", is the tallest player in program history. “Beth has a huge ceiling,” he said.

Minnesota’s class features Fab 50 picks Alyssa Goehner (OH) and Molly Lohman (MB), along with Maddie Beal (MB/Opp.) and Puerto Rico native Dalianliz Rosado (L). Goehner originally signed with Marquette but changed her mind when coach Bond Shymansky left to take the Iowa job. “Alyssa brings her all-around game and competitive drive,” coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “Dalianliz brings her ball control and heat from the service line. Molly can block and sideout at a very high level, and Maddie brings a live arm, some versatility, and a great volleyball IQ.”

Originally published in August 2014

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