College News

College: Busy Transfer Season Guts Former Top Class

Holly Carlton to Florida is just one transfer that leaves UNC’s former third-rated recruiting class in shambles.

Taking a break from the club scene for a moment.

It seems like college volleyball no longer has an offseason.

There is the actual season, when the matches are contested. Then there is transfer season, when the rosters of many, many programs get reshaped.

These past months since the 2017 campaign concluded with Nebraska winning the national championship have been packed with major transfer news. Of course, nothing is going to top former No. 1 Senior Ace Lexi Sun announcing her decision to leave Texas and enroll with the defending champs in the Huskers. Any time there is a transfer, especially one of that significance, there’s the fallout, or opposite reaction taking place on the other side. In the case of Texas and Sun, a roster spot opened up and it turns out it’s being filled by Logan Eggleston, who we wrote about here. Eggleston is completing high school a year early now and will join the Longhorns in the fall.

As enormous of a story Sun’s transfer is, it’s barely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the sheer number of transfers. Sun leaving Texas for Nebraska is the biggest individual move but no program has been impacted more during transfer season than North Carolina.

Two years ago, UNC received the No. 3 ranking in PVB’s Top 30 Recruiting Classes. Not only was there a ton of anticipation swirling around the incoming class, it surely had the Tar Heels on track for legitimately being in the national title hunt as well.

That class featured 6-4 OH Taylor Borup, 6-5 S/RS Holly Carlton, 6-1 MB Katharine Esterly, 5-10 S Mariah Evans, 6-1 OH Julia Scoles, and DSs Mia Fradenburg and Greer Moseman. The class included four Top-25 Senior Aces, as PVB wrote “The 2016 Tar Heel recruiting class is quite possibly the most decorated group to ever arrive in Chapel Hill.” However, remarkably, as of now, only Esterly, Fradenburg and Moseman remain. That means the Tar Heels four-highest rated recruits from 2016 are no longer on the roster.

That’s insane!

And yet, what might be even crazier is the Tar Heels could possibly be in a position to absorb all of those losses! That’s the world of college volleyball, where one transfer leaves but another is always waiting to come aboard. Between that, and UNC’s incoming class this fall, the program shouldn’t slide off the radar.    

The loss of Evans, who was forced to medically retire and will help on the sidelines this fall, is mitigated by the arrival of transfer Hunter Atherton, a 5-11 setter who left Nebraska after this past season. Atherton set the first two weekends while Kelly Hunter was coming back from injury, but Atherton probably wasn’t going to beat out incoming freshman Nicklin Hames and wound up at UNC. Atherton, a former PVB Senior Ace, will immediately help UNC’s setting situation.

“Hunter comes with a very high-level volleyball IQ as an experienced setter training at the Mintonette Club in her hometown of Ohio,” UNC coach Joe Sagula said, “along with her two years at Nebraska as part of a national championship team. She was the 2015 Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year, and is one of the most talented setters to join the Tar Heels. Hunter is a great competitor, and I see her as a leader for this young Tar Heel team where she will add a championship level mentality to our program.”

It’s going to be harder for UNC to make up for the size lost with Borup and Carlton and the explosiveness of Scoles. Carlton left UNC and is now at Florida. With Cheyenne Huskey transferring out of Florida’s program for Texas State, Carlton will fill a much-needed void on Florida. She gives the team an option to run a modified 5-1 like last year and/or use Carlton on the right side as a hitter.

Scoles’ indoor career appears to over. She left to play beach volleyball for Hawaii. And there is no word on where Borup has landed yet. On top of all that, UNC also lost senior outside Taylor Leath to Penn State. Still, UNC has 6-3 OH Hadden LaGarde, who’s already on campus, plus 6-1 OH Lauren Harrison and 6-2 OH Destiny Cox all arriving. UNC won’t have a lot of depth and the Tar Heels are going to be young and will have to live with rookie mistakes, but these are PVB Senior Aces and they can play the sport at a high level.

For UNC fans, unfortunately we are no longer talking about the program in the same conversation as the national championship. Yet, even with all the unfathomable turnover this spring the Tar Heels aren’t far off from getting back into the Top 25.

More Transfers (alphabetical order):

Payton Caffrey, 6-0 Soph OH

Former School: West Virginia

New School: Florida State

— After leading West Virginia in kills, Caffrey returns to her home state, where she should provide Florida State with a boost. The Seminoles lose their top two kill leaders in Milica Kubura and Natasha Calkins, so Caffrey will help make up some of that.

Olivia Dailey, 5-10 Jr S

Former School: Kentucky

New School: Ohio State

— The medical retirement of Taylor Hughes left Ohio State searching for a setter. The Buckeyes only have one – 5-9 sophomore Becca Mauer – on their spring roster. With Madison Lilley taking the reins as a freshman, Dailey will finish her career in Columbus now. Not only does Dailey help fill a need, she’s experienced and used to playing at a high level. “With Taylor Hughes done competing we needed to find a strong setter to join Becca Mauer on our team,” said Ohio State coach Geoff Carlston. “Olivia has invaluable big game experience over her three years in college that will serve our group well. We are really excited to have her joining our family.”

Samantha Drechsel, 6-4 Fr RS/MB

Former School: Maryland

New School: Washington

— Drechsel is another coming back to her home state and the bottom line is Washington has to replace nearly 1,000 kills from four players that moved on. The Huskies do have a big incoming freshmen class to help out, but Drechsel will give the Huskies experience while adding to the overall depth. She was third in kills last year for the Terps. “We’re thrilled to bring Sam back to Seattle to continue her career here at Washington,” Washington coach Keegan Cook said. “This fall, she not only competed well within the Big Ten in her freshman season, but her role and skill grew over the course of the season. That individual growth as well as her team’s improvement are ideals that Sam and I both really value.”

Alyse Ford, 5-10 Soph OH

Former School: USC

New School: ?

— It’s not official where Ford is transferring to yet. She could be staying in the Pac-12 though. 

Jordan Fry, 6-4 Fr MB

Former School: Kentucky

New School: Ohio State

— With the way Kentucky’s roster is shaped, Fry would have been in line to compete for lots of time in the middle this fall. Instead, she returns to her home state and will add depth to the position behind Madison Smeathers and Lauren Witte. “It’s so great to get Jordan into our family,” Ohio State coach Geoff Carlston said. “She fits in perfectly with our program academically and will make an impact right away with our team.”

Jasmine Gross, 6-3 Fr MB

Former School: Pepperdine

New School: USC

— Gross was a beast for the Waves in 2017, averaging 2.98 kills/set and 1.52 blocks/set. Middle was a definite need spot for the Trojans. Gross helps fill that in a hurry and should see plenty of action in the fall.

Sydney Kleinman, 6-2 Fr OH

Former School: Minnesota

New School: ?

— News of where Kleinman is transferring isn’t official yet. She saw playing time last season as a rookie for the Gophers. 

Kylie Kuyava-Deberg, 6-4 Fr OH/RS

Former School: Illinois

New School: Missouri

— Kuyava-Deberg, a former highly-ranked Senior Ace, was part of the logjam of younger pin hitters Illinois collected and has decided to move on. Based on Missouri’s current spring roster and the incoming freshmen class, Kuyava-Deberg should compete for lots of playing time right away.  

Cami May, 6-2 Fr MB

Former School: Penn State

New School: San Diego

— Even for this former Senior Ace, breaking into the lineup at Penn State was going to be difficult. May’s move to San Diego is a big one for the Toreros as she adds some flexibility. She can play middle or on the right, where San Diego has a more pressing need, especially if San Diego wants/needs to run a 6-2 this fall. There is only one right side currently on the roster in freshman Hannah Patrick.

Kylee McLaughlin, 5-10 Fr S

Former School: Oregon State

New School: Oklahoma

— The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year announced she is leaving Oregon State and will play next fall under new Sooners coach Lindsey Gray-Walton. “Kylee is elite in what she does, but more importantly how she does it,” said Gray-Walton. “As a student, person and player Kylee has achieved great success thus far and she’ll be the first to tell you she’s not done yet. We are excited to have her join Oklahoma volleyball for the next chapter of this program and her career in the Big 12.”

Brittany McLean, 6-1 Soph OH

Former School: Minnesota

New School: South Carolina

— McLean was part of the rotation at the second outside spot last year. South Carolina rode right side Mikayla Shields and middle Mikayla Robinson a year ago. McLean will fight for time on the left, as South Carolina seeks more production from that spot this fall. “We are thrilled to have Britt joining our team beginning this summer,” South Caroline coach Tom Mendoza said. “I remember watching her play for her club team and being impressed by her ability to positively impact her team whether in serve receive, defense, or taking big swings on the outside. We’re excited to see her do those things in a South Carolina uniform. She fits in very well with the culture and character that we are building our program around.”

Gia Milana, 6-2 Soph OH

Former School: Maryland

New School: Baylor

— Milana led Maryland in kills last year and will take that production to Baylor, who lose Katie Staiger to graduation. With Yossiana Pressley leading the team last year in kills as a rookie, Milana allows Baylor to keep a 1-2 punch going on the left. “We are absolutely thrilled about the addition of Gia Milana to our 2018 roster,” Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre said. “Gia will be adding incredible strength, power and experience to an already dynamic squad. Her ability to terminate from both the front and back row will fit extremely well into our system.”

Jaden Newsome, 6-0 Fr S

Former School: Colorado

New School: Missouri

— Given Missouri has just one setter on the spring roster and none featured in the incoming class, the Tigers were desperate for depth and will be helped out by the former PVB Senior Ace in Newsome. Brynna DeLuzio’s emergence at setter last year for the Buffs likely played a role in Newsome heading to Missouri, which could start as many as three transfers this fall.  

Tyanna Omazic, 6-2 Fr MB

Former School: Illinois

New School: Missouri

— Omazic contributed as a freshman at Illinois, finishing fifth in kills and fourth in blocks. She’ll add depth in the middle at Missouri, which returns both Alyssa Munlyn and Kayla Caffey, plus has 6-2 incoming freshman Brynn Paumen to help fill out the middle depth.  

Megan Sharkey, 5-10 Soph S

Former School: Rutgers

New School: Creighton 

— With Lydia Dimke gone and no setters among the incoming class, the Bluejays had an immediate opening. Sharkey, who led Rutgers in assists this past season, is one of two transfers joining Creighton in order to provide setting help. Madelyn Cole, a 5-10 setter from Marshall, is the other coming aboard. “Megan is a great setter,” Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said. “One of the things we talked about wanting is someone who can put the ball where it needs to be, and Megan can do that. She started for two years at Rutgers in the Big Ten, so she’s played at a high level. She’s a culture kid. Everyone that I’ve talked to said what a great kid she is. I think she’s a good leader and we’re excited to add her to the fold.”

Claire Sheehan, 6-2 Fr OH

Former School: Iowa

New School: Minnesota

— Sheehan, who played club for Northern Lights, returns to her home state after posting the third most kills for Iowa a year ago. Minnesota struggled finding a consistent OH2 to pair with Lexi Hart last fall and Sheehan could bring stability to that spot. “We’re extremely excited to have Claire join our program,” Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “She’s a wonderful all-around volleyball player and she absolutely knows how to compete. She’s also a great student and we’re glad she can be closer to her family.”   

Jamie Stivers, 6-2 Fr OH

Former School: Duke

New School: Cal Poly

— With Adlee Van Winden and Raeann Greisen graduating on the outside, there’s an immediate void that Stivers figures to fill on the left.

Amy Underdown, 6-1 Soph OH

Former School: Northeastern

New School: Oregon State

— Racking up a team-leading 449 kills for Northeastern last fall, Underdown will take her big arm to the Pac-12 to try and help Oregon State continue last season’s rise. She likely won’t replace all of Mary-Kate Marshall’s 525 kills for the Beavers in 2017, but adding Underdown will soften the loss of Marshall to a degree. “Amy is a very important piece of our recruiting puzzle for our 2018 class,” Oregon State coach Mark Barnard said. “She is a proven performer at the college level and honed her skills at one of the top junior clubs in the country, 951. She is a powerful hitter with all the skills to play in all six rotations.”  

Marijke Van Dyke, 6-2 Fr, OH

Former School: Illinois

New School: Louisville

— Given the number of underclassmen pin hitters that Illinois has stockpiled, it seemed like there wasn’t room for them all. Van Dyke, a former SPVB player, adds some pop to the Louisville attack and should be in line to see plenty of playing time this fall. “We are extremely excited to add Marijke to the Louisville family,” Louisville coach Dani Busboom Kelly said. “She is an exciting athlete and gives a great returning roster some depth. It is obvious that Marijke has the drive to be great and will instantly make our gym and culture more competitive.” 



  1. nebraska

    May 14, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    I don’t see what the real value of Hunter Atherton is for UNC. . . UNC just experienced mass migration away from their program and Atherton appears to save the day. . .really. Atherton a player who was the only setter on the roster of the defending national champions, had 2 years of playing behind an AA setter, got to practice every day with the best players in America and she transfers. Sure she would have had to compete for the starting job with a talented freshman, but it bothers me that she didn’t even bother to compete. She didn’t bother to stay at Nebraska for the spring season, where she could have been the only setter, she left. She didn’t compete in the spring or in the fall, she quite. She left. I don’t know how good any UNC fan, coach or player can be comfortable with a setter who chose not to complete. . .sort of odd. Maybe she just thinks UNC has a better chance to be national champions . . . maybe she’s correct. . . but she just didn’t compete. . .and that bothers me.

  2. bllewis2010

    May 15, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Atherton will help UNC. UNC had two issues last year; lack of a setter and libero. Fradenburg was out all year except 6 matches and Carlton and Koetter were not consistent setters. Atherton has upside and may fit better at UNC than she did at Nebraska. She will also not have the pressure at UNC to perform perfectly for a spot like she did at Nebraska. And UNC will be back in a few years in the national title hunt as the recruiting class for next year also looks to be a stud group.

  3. ballnchain90

    May 16, 2018 at 6:52 am

    I’m not surprised at all with a high turnover rates, especially since kids were being asked to commit at such a young age. As the new policies of take affect, the proof in the pudding will be 6 years from now when this Fall’s 8th graders go thru the new “Hands off“ recruiting process. It’s much better to give them time to grow into who they will be… Prior to making this 40 year decision on what college to go to.

    My gut tells me the the churn will decrease over time, starting with the class of 2025.

  4. Chris Tobolski

    May 16, 2018 at 8:29 am

    It’s not really a “Hands off” recruiting process. There are loopholes to get around and players are still allowed to commit early. I don’t really think it’s going to change anything in terms of early commits and later transfers. These new rules are going to have a minimal impact, to the point we will barely notice them.

  5. Ironborn

    May 22, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Recruiting kids in junior high is a problem. The best thing about recruiting transfers is that they can’t transfer again! Not easily anyway.

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