So I’m starting this college gig and everything’s new to me. I’ve been asking lots of questions of my college coaching friends and reading up in order to be as prepared as possible once the 2018 season gets underway on August 24.
I’m a sharer by nature, which means that as I learn I’ll try to convey what I know to you, my faithful readers, with an every now and again article to which I’ve given the fancy name, “College Volleyball Notebook.”
Let’s get started…
“Horses for my Wisky”
With Dana Rettke, Tionna Williams and Madison Duello back, the Wisconsin Badgers return three players from last year’s 22-10 team who each had more than 200 kills. Fans in Madison have been salivating about the return of a fourth, OH Molly Haggerty, the No. 5 recruit in the country in PrepVolleyball.com’s Class of 2016 Senior Aces, but wondering whether the hammer from Illinois would be healthy after missing all of last year with a back injury.
We asked head coach Kelly Sheffield to fill us in on Haggerty’s status and he told us that she’ll be a full go this fall.
“We took it really slow, trying not to compromise her long-term health just to get her on the court,” the coach said about the decision to redshirt her last year. “She hasn’t played a real match in over a year and a half, so we are trying to temper expectations a little. But she says this is the best she’s felt in a long, long time. I expect we’ll see a player who continues to get stronger, better, and more confident as the season progresses.”
“Poised On Ivy?”
We’ve been producing the Senior Aces, the top college recruits in the next graduating high school class, since the inception of PrepVolleyball.com in 2003. To our knowledge (I’ve been consulting with site co-founder Kevin Laseau, the current Associate Head Coach at Yale, about this), only one player committed to an Ivy League institution out of high school has ever made our Top 100: setter Kendall Polan from San Diego, who went to Yale.
Polan wasn’t publicly committed to Yale when she was announced as Senior Ace No. 74 in September of 2009. She went public with her news about one week later and ultimately led her high school, La Costa Canyon, to state and national championships in her final prep campaign. Polan went on to have a fairly distinguished career at Yale. She was named Rookie of the Year in the league as a freshman, then won league Player of the Year honors her final three seasons.
I write this because it appears the Top 100 Senior Aces “club” is poised to accept another member with designs on Ivy. In the latest draft of the Aces, which went out yesterday to our esteemed coaching panel, an Ivy-bound player sat at No. 97. We can’t tell you who she is at this time or whether she’ll survive the frenzied debate surrounding the last in-first out, but we LOVE IT when kids from outside the Power 5 and other established elite programs are good enough to be considered among the top 100 recruits in the land.
Speaking of the Senior Aces, by all accounts the Stanford Cardinal will have an impact class coming to the Farm in 2019. In early voting among our coaching panel on the Top 10 Senior Aces, three Cardinal commits have received votes for the No. 1 spot over all. Stanford recently rated No. 1 nationally in our July Insider’s Poll based on returning every starter but one AND having four deep impact juniors with national championship experience back. Now imagine those juniors as seniors with the current freshmen and sophomores AND the 2019 class. That’s downright scary!
“Who’s No. 1?”
Not since 2012, when MB Molly McCage was anointed, has there been so much uncertainty at this stage over who will eventually emerge as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2019 Senior Aces. Last year, the top dog was OH Thayer Hall (Florida). The year before that it was OH Lexi Sun (Texas and now Nebraska). She was preceded by OH Khalia Lanier (USC), MB Haleigh Washington (Penn State) and setter Lauren Carlini (Wisconsin).
“Hitting the High Notes”
As of this moment, I have 400 head coaches, assistant coaches and SIDs on my newly-minted “College Coaches” bulk email list. With so much turnover every year, these lists get stale quickly, so it was time to start anew. Thanks to my friends at University Athlete for helping me in this endeavor by sending out an email on our behalf.
Note that while the list is free, it requires a college coach or SID to opt into the list at this link: http://eepurl.com/dBz8E5. The opt-in process takes less than 45 seconds, but if you do it, be sure to take your time. Ten emails bounced from my first effort this morning, almost all because it’s “.edu” not .esu or .esi or anything else like that.
Anyway, I asked those on the list to respond back TODAY if they had ”one interesting note or bit of news about your school and/or its players heading into the 2018 season.”
This is what I received…
Creighton got a head start to the fall season with a trip to Europe from June 10-21. The Bluejays spent time in Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic while playing five matches. With seven of the team’s 15 members in 2018 being newcomers, the trip came at a perfect time for bonding and the development of chemistry…
Framingham State heads in 2018 having played in the last SIX MASCAS championship matches. The Rams have made the NCAA D-III tournament in four of those years.
UCONN is looking for a rebound from last year’s injury-plagued season, which saw the Huskies dressing only eight players the last two weeks of 2017!
Flagler College returns to the court in 2018 after back-to-back Peach Belt Conference regular-season titles and a third PBC Conference Tournament Title in a row in 2017. The Saints, who won their third regional championship in school history and advanced to the NCAA DII Elite Eight last season, returns four starters and their libero to a team that over the past four years has progressively won more matches and advanced further in the NCAA Tournament each season.
Indiana University will not only play the 2018 season with a new head coach, Steve Aird, who came over from Maryland; but also will debut a new arena…
Ohio Wesleyan University has a young and talented team with 12 of the 16 being freshmen and sophomores this season. The team is led by sophomore setter and North Coast Athletic Conference 2017 Freshman of the Year, Molly Jewett.
Appalachian State is looking to bounce back from two years dealing with injuries to key players. Said head coach Matt Ginipro: “Emma Longley (Jr. OH) has put up some incredible numbers in the matches she’s played in, but has had two injury-shortened seasons. If she can have a full one this year, I think she’s a difference maker. Our culture is also one of the best I’ve been around. It is genuinely an incredible group to be around every day.”
This will be Texas A&M International University’s last year in the Heartland Conference, so there’s a chance to make some history before the conference dissolves. Starting in 2019, the Dustdevils will join the Lone Star Conference and at that time the conference will grow to 20 teams, becoming the largest Division II conference in the country!
Villanova University brings back head coach Josh Steinbach for this 12th year in Philly, but he will have three new assistants with him, including former ‘Nova All-America Kim Maroon. The university also welcomes a heralded freshman class led by skywalker Sanaa Barnes, who returned from competing with the USA 20 & Under track and field team in Finland. She high jumped as astounding 6-0 ¾ to qualify for the team!
2018 will be the inaugural season for Marymount University’s new conference, the Atlantic East. The program’s 2018 schedule includes regional powerhouses and championship programs such as Stevenson, Juniata, Christopher Newport, Mary Washington, Eastern, Cabrini and Randolph Macon. Coach Beth Ann Wilson feels the tough schedule will give her team the best shot at the NCAA tournament during the new conference’s provisional status. The Saints will rely heavily on senior, setter/hitter and captain, Caroline Hanson, who in 2017 led the country in triple-doubles in Division III.
At Florida Gulf Coast University, the staff’s first recruiting class will be heading into its senior year. Setter Maggie Rick is on the verge of breaking the all-time assists record for the school, while outside hitter and conference co-Player of the Year, Amanda Carroll, has already rewritten the record books for kills. “This group of seniors has contributed to a 70-27 record during their time at FGCU, including three consecutive 20-win seasons, and two consecutive trips to the conference tournament finals,” said head coach Matt Botsford.
The University of the South in Sewanee Georgia has a new head coach in Nancy Mueller-Culver. She will benefit from the return of HM All-America OH Destiny Stewart for her sophomore year…
Virginia Tech’s theme for 2018 is “Fuel the Fire.” Fueling the fire for the Hokies will be RS Jaila Tolbert, who was named to the All ACC team last season and was also chosen for the USA National Collegiate team this summer; as well as All-ACC Freshman team member, OH Kaity Smith.
Viterbo University, an NAIA institution out of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, is riding a 64-match home winning streak dating to 2012…
The University of Virginia has a cozy home court in Memorial Gymnasium, known as “Mem Gym” to those, like me, who played on those hard word courts as a student in C-Ville. The home court advantage will get sweeter in 2018 for the Hoos. As part of a transformational master plan for athletics facilities, Mem Gym will get air conditioning, a volleyball specific weight room and a training room on site.
Entering its ninth season, Lourdes University in Ohio has qualified for the NAIA national tournament four times with two conference titles. The Grey Wolves look to return to the Top 25 national rankings this season.
The University of Tennessee, with coach Eve Rackham now at the helm, returns 98.74 percent of its assists from last season. The Vols sit eight wins away from capturing No. 900 in program history.
Coppin State University will welcome 11 freshmen in 2018!
Angelo State University is generally among the top 5 in volleyball attendance nationally at the Division II level each year. The team has been to seven straight NCAA tournaments and has had 13 All Americas in the last six years.
The University of Akron has five freshman and five sophomores on a 15-player roster. Said head coach Tom Hanna: “We’ll still be young but with improved athleticism from our newcomers and an experienced sophomore class. The sophomore class includes three who started (setter, libero & left side) last year on a team that lost 30% of sets in MAC play by two points. Bring that experience back with a healthy Elya Karsner (All-Freshman Team two years ago) coming back from surgery and the added athleticism (Freshman middle Mahogany Vinson touching 10’5” for example) and some great senior leaders, and there’s hopefully enough to vault the Zips into the middle of the MAC at the very least.”
Adam Hughes is entering his first year as head coach of the University of Maryland after serving four years as an assistant. Hughes has been instrumental in raising the talent on the court and excitement around the program. The Terps brought the 16th-ranked recruiting class in for 2016, the first time in program history the freshman class has been ranked. In 2017, Maryland welcomed its first-ever top-10 recruiting class with four Under Armour All-Americas. This season, Maryland welcomes four newcomers to the fold as the Terps look to build off of their best B1G Ten season yet.
Baylor University already has three commitments in the Class of 2022! They are OH Sophia Keene, a dynamic six-rotation pin with a heavy arm and immense ceiling; Alexis Dacosta, a club hitter who will probably be a libero for the Bears and exhibits great ball control and court presence for someone so young; and RS Allie Szech, a long, athletic lefty with huge upside.
That’s all I’ve got for now! I’m headed to D.C. tonight with son Casey for a little lesson in government and American history but will get after it again on the college scene next week!