More than 400 players at the PrepVolleyball.com Unsigned Showcase Thursday afternoon and evening gave the college coaches in attendance a lot to ponder as all three sessions were deep with talent.
Picking session MVPs was brutally hard, but we settled on 5-8 sophomore setter Arien Fafard from Vegas’ Dig This VBC as the most intriguing talent at 4 p.m., 6-1 sophomore middle Emily Crenshaw of Carolina Rogue as MVP at 5:30 and 5-6 freshman defender Tatum Duke of East Carolina Juniors as top banana at 7 p.m.
While all position groups had abundant talent, our on-court coaches were particularly impressed by the setters.
Fafard blew the training staff on her court away by knowing the names of ALL her fellow setters in her group in virtually no time. She gave consistent energy and encouragement and her skill set, including jump setting almost all the time, made her even more noteworthy.
Catching up with her afterwards, Fafard said she lives life by the YOLO acronym – You Only Live Once.
“I like to take risks but I make sure to respect everyone around me,” Fafard added. “I always play for the reasons that are in my mind and in my heart. Off the court it’s for my family; on the court it’s for the people for me, next to me and behind me.”
Other setters we particularly enjoyed watching included junior Isabelle Miranda of AZ Desert Sky, a jump setter with silky smooth movements; junior Avery Webb of Grand Strand, who seemed to deliver a hittable ball time and time again; freshman Kyla Mullen of OTVA, whose hands are beautiful; sophomore Ainsley Hartman of Cobb Atlanta, who is tall and moves well; Kayla Keshock, a sophomore from Mobile Storm with a great frame and size and deft touch; and senior Jordan Walter of FJVC, who has good hands and goes after it defensively.
Wait! There are more! A lot more. Here are other setters we noted:
Jenna Jones, a junior from AZ Desert Sky;
Dulaney Stony, a junior from Precision Onyx;
Ainsley Schultz, a sophomore from NASA South;
Callaway Cason, a sophomore from A5;
Johanna Rizo, a freshman from Up on Top;
London Fuller, a junior from Baltimore Elite;
Bethany Cudnik, a junior from Top Select;
Madi Morris, a sophomore from Club Unite;
Erin Carpenter, a sophomore from A5;
Madison Greene, a sophomore from NC KAT;
Jenessa Bailey, a freshman from Club Steel;
Stacy McLemore, a freshman from Club Unite;
Breylee Linder, a junior from Rocket City;
Kailey DiPaula, a sophomore from JJVA;
Shirta Wells, a sophomore from Triangle; and
Desiree Blount, a junior from A5;
Alisha Callender, a freshman from OTVA.
That’s 24 setters we HAD to tell you about!
Middle blockers were VERY strong in the first and third sessions and not as much in the second, but our MVP from the second session was a middle: the big-blocking Crenshaw, a physical specimen with a 9-10 leap. Crenshaw led her 23-win South Carolina high school team in blocks this past fall and added 3.4 kills per game and has been good enough in club for the A5 staff managing the Showcase to remember that she’s been a thorn in their side this year. The former competitive backstroker has a D-I dream and the tools to realize it.
Let me introduce our Session III MVP, the athletic Duke, who averaged a kill and a dig per set as a freshman DS/OH for JH Rose in North Carolina. Duke stood out for her great platform as well as her superior movement and reading skills.
“I started taking lessons when I was eight and really liked it,” said Duke, when asked to share her story. “I like being able to get to any ball and showing others that even though I’m short I can play.”
Before we list the other players who impressed us (it’s not a comprehensive list, because so many did well), I want to mention a couple of others who were in contention for MVP honors in their respective sessions:
Powerful senior MB Breona Young, who’s athletic with good feet and consistent power;
Reese Schroeder, a freshman libero with a strong platform and good court movement (“I wish she was on my team,” noted her court coach);
Garrett Green, a junior OH from A5 who jumps high and can score down the line or in the seam;
Zoi Evans, a 6-2 MB from Club Steel who is long and quick and gets her head above the net; and
Alexia Austin, a junior OH from SMASH who led the Massachusetts state champs in kills last fall but is strong in six rotations.
Let’s also not forget the high risers! Two eclipsed the 10-0 mark, 6-2 junior outside Zyare Abdul-Rahim from Baltimore Elite and 6-2 freshman RS Ryleigh Whitekettle from Cape Fear VBC. Abdul-Rahim started playing in ninth grade but wasn’t into sports before then. The 10-0 touch was no surprise to her. “It just came naturally,” she said, who also showed off a fast arm. Whitekettle, who is VERY long, can swing on either pin but appears particularly suited to the right side.
Jazmin Spencer, a 5-7 junior OH from Thunder Bay, wowed with a 9-11 leap!
Here now are the other pins, defenders and middles who caught someone’s eye, with notes if we have them:
Sadie Sharkey, sophomore, Southern Tier (nice snap)
Elizabeth Price, junior, OTVA
Kennedy Wade, sophomore (big arm; aggressive; good ball control)
Ayla Tudtud, senior (lefty is a versatile scorer)
Camryn Anderson, junior, SA Magic (can hang and bang)
Victoria Boudreaux, junior, Wildfire (classic O2 with control)
Jessica Lopresti, junior, Boomers
Lauren Montren, junior, Jammers (nice arm)
McKenya Sorrels, sophomore, Texas Fury (moves well)
Jacque Martin, sophomore, Mobile Storm (fluid athlete)
Jessica Lee, sophomore (moves well; power potential)
Grace Ieremia, junior, Wildfire (strong and powerful)
Molly Michalak, sophomore, Elite ( hitting 10-foot line)
Bailey Teter, freshman, Cape Fear
Kennedy Hooten, sophomore, West Florida Waves (athletic and can pass)
Chamblee Russell, sophomore, Cobb Atlanta (smart hitter with knack for scoring)
Bre’elle Hawkins, junior, Tampa Bay Raptors (high reach; good vert)
Cassie Taylor, junior, Cape Fear (poised; confident attacker)
Jessica Aycock, junior, NC Kat (capable on either pin)
Amara Udeh, junior Carolina Juniors (fast arm)
Baleigh Stevens, sophomore, NAVC
Mallory Roney, junior, 904 Elite (best Session I lefty)
Taylor Bielek, sophomore, Upward Stars (lefty hits with pace)
Robin Rosser, freshman CJV
Kendall Murphy, sophomore, GA5 (aggressive and athletic)
Ashley Wakefield, freshman, Impact (great passer; strong athlete)
Kennedy Herold-Rhoe, junior (talks; knows how to control game)
Olivia Langdon, junior, TX Fury (worker; plays with emotion)
Abigail Granson, sophomore, Cobb Atlanta
Adyline Bentley, sophomore, TX Assault (good control)
Brooke Jameson, freshman, Carolina Juniors (not afraid to go for it)
Amiranee Au, freshman, Club Unite (consistent passer)
Zoe Routson, sophomore, Top Select
Preslee Brooksbank, sophomore,A5 Chattanooga
Jessica Williams, senior, Push 1
Aliah Bell, junior, DFW Elite (physical)
Katelyn McMoore, sophomore, Coalition (easy rise; fast arm)
Brylee Phillips, freshman, East Carolina Juniors (great footwork; good talker)
Rebecca Walk, sophomore, Mobile Storm (long and lean; will develop power)
Mikayla Shaver, junior, AZ Desert Sky (moves well; has sense of the game)
Maya Walker, junior, SC Midlands (uncommon rise; turns heads with her power)
Maggie Sullivan, junior, NASA South (gets hand on top of the ball well)
Simone Brown, junior, Capital City
Isabella Choice, sophomore, ProStyle
Lauren Ambrose, freshman, Carolina Juniors
Ariel Brown, junior, Play Like Winners
A’Nylah Cobb, sophomore, Tallahassee Juniors (crazy vertical)
Sydney Pero, sophomore, North Atlanta (elevates and explodes)
Sierrah Lemons, junior, Georgia Adrenaline