SALT LAKE CITY, UT -- While the sport of volleyball continues to grow and evolve in the youth/club space, there are historical markers that give the nation a comprehensive look at the level of talent in the game.
One of those is the annual Fab 50 and Top 25 Underclassmen to Watch list, researched and sponsored by VolleyballMag.com. In 2018, the Fab 50 members range from 5-foot-5 libero Megan Miller to 6-foot-7 Julia Wohlert; all players are heading to NCAA D-I programs and hoping to make an impact at the college level.
The Triple Crown Volleyball NIT, held this President's Day Weekend at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, brought many of these players and/or their club teams to the event, with more than 435 clubs attending. A total of 33 players represented clubs that attended the TC NIT from the Fab 50 list, while 13 of the Top 25 Underclassmen came from clubs that competed at the event.
Fab 50 List
Name, Height, Position, High School, Club, College
Mica Allison, 6-1, S, St. Thomas More (Champaign, Illinois), Illini Elite, Auburn
Brooke Andersen, 5-11, OH, Lake County (Hartland, Wisconsin), Milwaukee Sting, Iowa State
Karson Bacon, 6-4, MB, Rancho Cucamonga (California), TStreet, Oregon
Ava Bell, 6-1, MB, Rouse (Leander, Texas), Austin Performance, North Carolina
Gabby Blossom, 5-9, S, St. Joe’s (St. Louis, Missouri), Rockwood Thunder, Penn State
Diana Brown, 6-1, S, St. Francis de Sales (Columbus, Ohio), Mintonette, Illinois
Holly Campbell, 6-4, MB, Westlake (Austin, Texas), Austin Jrs., Stanford
Allyson Cathey, 6-0, OH, New Albany (Indiana), KIVA, Penn State
Devon Chang, 5-11, S, Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), A4, UCLA
Grace Cleveland, 6-3, MB, Normal (Illinois), Illini Elite, Purdue
Shannon Crenshaw, 6-2, OH, Bishop Moore (Orlando, Florida), Top Select, Washington
Dani Cole, 6-3, RS, Rouse (Leander, Texas), Austin Jrs., Washington
Destiny Cox, 6-2, OH, Carrboro (North Carolina), Triangle, North Carolina
Capri Davis, 6-1, OH, Lake Ridge (Mansfield, Texas), Texas Image, Nebraska
Lauren Dooley, 6-6, MB, Plano East (Plano, Texas), Skyline, Florida
Chandler Duff, 6-2, MB, Grosse Pointe (Michigan) South, Legacy, Oregon
Mackenzie Fidelak, 6-1, S-RS, Niwot (Colorado), Norco, Stanford
Riley Fischer, 5-6, Libero, Harrison (Kennesaw, Georgia), A5, Florida
Whitney Forman, 6-3, MB, Langham Creek (Houston, Texas), TX Tornados, LSU
Heather Gneiting, 6-4, MB, Pleasant Grove (Utah), Club V, BYU
Serena Gray, 6-2, MB, Temple City (California), San Gabriel Elite, Penn State
Marin Grote, 6-4, MB-OH, Burroughs (Burbank, California), San Gabriel Elite, Washington
Mia Grunze, 6-2, OH, Waterford (Wisconsin), Milwaukee Sting, Ohio State
Lexi Hadrych, 6-1, OH, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, California), COAST, UCLA
Thayer Hall, 6-4, OH, Dorman (Roebuck, South Carolina), Upward Stars, Florida
Nicklin Hames, 5-11, S, Webb School (Knoxville, Tennessee), K2, Nebraska
Jenna Hampton, 5-6, Libero, Berkeley (Tampa, Florida), OTVA, Penn State
Kaitlyn Hord, 6-4, MB, Henry Clay (Lexington, Kentucky), Lexington United, Penn State
Rainelle Jones, 6-2, MB, Oxon Hill (Maryland), Metro VBC, Maryland
Jael Johnson, 6-4, MB, Avon (Indiana), Circle City, Purdue
CC McGraw, 5-9, Libero, Prior Lake (Savage, Minnesota), MN Select, Minnesota
Megan Miller, 5-5, Libero, Alexandria (Indiana)-Monroe, Munciana, Nebraska
Marlie Monserez, 6-0, S, Bishop Moore (Orlando, Florida), OTVA, Florida
Gloria Mutiri, 6-2, RS, Sand Springs (Oklahoma), Club ONE, Kansas State
Charley Niego, 6-0, OH, Mother McAuley (Chicago, Illinois), Michio, Notre Dame
Brooke Nuneviller, 5-11, Libero-OH, Corona del Sol (Tempe, Arizona), Aspire, Oregon
Zoe Nunez, 5-11, S, Keith Country Day (Rockford, Illinois), Fusion, Notre Dame
Erin O’Leary, 5-10, S, Novi (Michigan), Legacy, Michigan
Asjia O’Neal, 6-3, MB, Carroll (Southlake, Texas), TAV, Texas
Jonni Parker, 6-1, S-RS, Miami East (Casstown, Ohio), Munciana, Penn State
Amanda Phegley, 6-4, MN, Berkeley (Tampa, Florida), OTVA, Penn State
Ella May Powell, 6-0, S, Fayetteville (Arkansas), Ozark Jrs., Washington
Kylie Robinson, 5-9, S, Claremont (California), San Gabriel Elite, Oregon
Adanna Rollins, 6-0, OH, Hebron (Carrollton, Texas), TAV, Minnesota
Brooklyn Schirmer, 6-1, OH, Redondo Union (R. Beach, Calif.), Long Beach, USC
Callie Schwarzenbach, 6-5, MB, Kearney (Missouri), KC Power, Nebraska
Alli Stumler, 6-1, OH, Christian Academy Indiana (New Albany, Ind.), KIVA, Kentucky
Haley Warner, 6-2, RS, Fayetteville (Arkansas), Ozark Jrs., Florida
Julia Wohlert, 6-7, RS-MB, Decatur Central (Indianapolis, Ind.), Circle City, Wisconsin
Jaela Zimmerman, 6-2, OH, Malcolm (Nebraska), VC Nebraska, Creighton
Top 10 Players in Class of 2018
1. Thayer Hall (Upward Stars)
2. Nicklin Hames (K2)
3. Asjia O'Neal (TAV)
4. Kaitlyn Hord (Lexington United)
5. Jonni Parker (Munciana)
6. Serena Gray (San Gabriel Elite)
7. Heather Gneiting (Club V)
8. Adanna Rollins (TAV)
9. Ella May Powell (Ozark Juniors)
10. CC McGraw (MN Select)
2018 VolleyballMag.com/Triple Crown Sports 25 Underclassmen to Watch List
Name, Height, Position, Year, High School, Club, College Commit
Caitie Baird, 6-3, OH, Jr., Perry Meridian (Indianapolis, Ind.), Circle City, Stanford
Ally Batenhorst, 6-4, OH-MB, Fresh., Seven Lakes (Katy, Texas), Houston Juniors, NA
Naomi Cabello, 6-1, S, Soph., East Ridge (Clermont, Florida), Top Select, Texas
Jade Demps, 6-1, OH-MB, Broughton (Raleigh, North Carolina), Triangle, Wisconsin
Logan Eggleston, 6-2, OH, Jr., Brentwood (Tennessee), Alliance, Texas
Skylar Fields. 6-2, OH, Jr., Ridge Point (Missouri City, Texas), Houston Jrs., Texas
Rylee Gray, 6-2, MB, Fresh., Elkhorn South (Omaha, Nebraska), Nebraska Elite, NA
Gabby Gonzales, 6-4, OH, Jr., Walton (Georgia), A5, Ohio State
Birdie Hendrickson, 6-1, S, Soph., Logan-Rogersville (Missouri), Springfield Jrs., Florida
Madison Horin, 6-3, MB, Jr., Munster (Indiana), 1st Alliance, USC
Ngozi Iloh, 6-1, MB, Fresh., McIntosh (Peachtree City, Georgia), A5 South, NA
Kendall Kipp, 6-3, MB, Jr., Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), Laguna Beach, Stanford
Lindsay Krause, 6-3, OH, Fresh., Skutt (Omaha, Nebraska), NE Premier, Nebraska
Madi Kubik, 6-1, OH, Jr., Valley (West Des Moines, Iowa), CIS, Nebraska
Taylor Landfair, 6-5, OH, Soph., Plainfield (Central), Illinois, Sports Performance, Minnesota
Emily Londot, 6-2, MB, Fresh., Utica (Ohio), Mintonette, NA
Kami Miner, 5-11, S-RS, Fresh., Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.), NA, NA
Kennedi Orr, 6-0, S, Fresh., Eagan (Minnesota), Northern Lights, Nebraska
Molly Phillips, 6-4, MB, Jr., Mansfield (Texas), Texas Image, Texas
McKenna Vicini, 6-2, MB, Jr., Lexington (Kentucky) Catholic, Lexington United, Stanford
Devyn Robinson, 6-0, MB, Soph., Centennial (Ankeny, Iowa), Central Iowa, Wisconsin
Jessica Robinson, 6-1, OH, Jr., Troy (Michigan), Legacy, Michigan
Melani Shaffmaster, 6-4, S, Soph., New Castle (Indiana), Munciana, Minnesota
Madison Williams, 6-1, OH, Soph., Lake Ridge (Mansfield, Texas), TAV, Texas
Selina Xu, 5-11, S, Jr., Menlo (Atherton, California), Vision, NA
By Marcos Aragon
For Shockwave 17-1, the last 24 hours have been full of turmoil and rough times. But today’s matchup against Athena 17 Gold was anything but rough for them at the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT.
Shockwave head coach Scott Larkin knew his team’s energy level had to be higher Sunday after his team endured a rough set of circumstances prior to Saturday night’s final match.
“It was great today, last night was rough. We got done with pool and had a three-way tie for first. We had to sit for an hour and wait for a team to come back. It was really rough,” said Larkin. “We didn’t come back to play. We got hammered last night in our playoff match, and they came ready to play today.”
By the time Shockwave finished their last match of the night, it was around 11:45 pm. The team is from Wichita, KS, and is not used to the time change. For the players internally, it was nearly 1 am for them when the match ended and most of the team did not get to sleep until a short while later.
Rather than fold to excuses, Shockwave took out their frustrations on Athena, claiming a 25-15, 25-21 victory in the 17’s Club division.
“We had a bit of a rough day, so I think we brought that energy into today and we weren’t going to let that rough start yesterday stop us,” said Shockwave player Sarah Brittain. “When your teammates do really great things, it makes you get more excited… we just carried on each other’s energy.”
Shockwave dominated the net both defensively and offensively. Athena’s hitters struggled mightily to get the ball past the Shockwave blockers. The length of Shockwave’s players along the net was an enormous problem for Athena that they went after time and time again. Larkin credited the physical advantage they had and figuring out what shots Athena liked to take.
“I don’t want to say they were predictable, but they had their favorite shots that we were able to take away,” added Larkin.
“Before the game, our coach said ‘defense wins championships’ so they just really worked on not necessarily closing the block but if they leave holes for us it really helps the back row get in there and step in and get some digs,” said Brittain. “They did their part and as a back row, we just try to do ours.”
The defense was the foundation for the win, but the offense of Shockwave was surgical in their shot selection. When Athena played aggressively at the net, Shockwave simply just put the ball around their blockers. The weak spot for Athena was the center of their defense and the middles, so Shockwave set up for success in that area.
Brittain compared last night’s energy to today’s saying they were “more settled in, more focused and ready to take care of business.”
By Marcos Aragon
The Aspire 18 Rox team has been the true definition of “survive and advance” at the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT.
The team is playing with a short-handed roster but has continued through the tournament like nothing has changed. The lack of depth didn’t come back to bite Aspire (AZ) on Sunday as they defeated A5 Mizuno 18-Bob in three sets, 22-25, 25-19, 15-12 to advance to the semifnals of the 18 Elite division.
With a thin bench behind him, Aspire head coach Ryan Tolman was forced to get creative with his rotations and game plans.
“We’ve got a couple of girls who are out right now. One of our middles is out and we’re missing a defensive specialist,” Tolman said. “We’re trying to manage some girls in some new spots and I think we’re playing well.”
Aspire’s first set was riddled with some early mistakes. Many of the first points surrendered to A5 (GA) were from service errors and players being out of position defensively. Aspire fell behind but made up for it towards the end of the match, getting more in sync despite being down.
Adjustments were made after the first set and Aspire looked like a completely different team, leaping out to a 20-8 lead. A5’s outstanding defense from the first set looked like it had been figured out by Aspire. The weak spot in A5’s defense throughout the match was the center, and Aspire ran more sets for their middles and attacked with smart shots, picking out their spots with precision.
“We’ve played (A5) a number of times, and they always give us fits like that. It’s a little bit of a different defensive scheme, so it takes some time getting used to,” said Tolman. “We just kept at it. We know where we can score some points at times. It’s a matter of just trying not to score more than one point at a time. Just get the ball in play and make them continue to beat you. Late we were able to find some holes, which was nice.”
Libero Anna Morse admitted to being fatigued after logging so many minutes on the floor but knows she and her team must stay ready to go for their next match.
“We’re all pretty tired because we’ve all been playing pretty much every game, but we’re really excited,” said Morse. “Everyone stepping up was really important and I think we all felt a little bit of pressure at least in the first set we lost -- but we were really pumped up, we knew this was it. We knew we had to win the next two and everyone really stepped up and showed out.”
“The message was to stay the course, trust your training, be ready to play when you get the chance, and they did that,” said Tolman.
In the 18 Elite semis, Aspire will face defending champion Munciana Samurai at 10 a.m. Monday, with Legacy Elite and the Idaho Crush squaring off at 11 a.m. The 18 Elite championship will be decided at 1 p.m., with the match broadcast by ESPN3.
by Kyle Koso
Chugging through their work Saturday at the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT, the Skyline 15 Elite from Dallas hadn’t faced much drama by the midpoint of their task, with one win in the books and a 1-0 lead against Sky High (Chicago) in their second match.
The sport is notorious for momentum shifts, however, and in the younger age groups the mood can shift even more drastically, and sure enough Skyline suddenly looked earthbound and stressed in Game 2. But Mark Flores’ squad found their spring and savvy in time, posting a 25-19, 20-25, 15-10 victory to lift spirits heading into their final contest later in the session.
Skyline took care of Game 1 in eye-popping fashion, as Shea Shore pulled off a miracle save at the net that ended up as a winner; that made it game point, and Shore closed it with a wicked kill from the right side. Sky High more than recovered, taking a big lead and leaving Flores a little short on solutions.
“Our passing fell apart; we were doing some different things with the lineup, and we struggled,” Flores said. “In Game 3, our serving was tough and accurate, and we weren’t making mistakes. We kept the ball in play and let them make the errors.
“We want the girls to be competing to make a run at the podium. If we don’t set that expectation, then they’ll come in and not even try. We play a lot of these teams, and we came in with a lower seed because of our finish in nationals last year. We had some bad injuries; we are hoping to redeem ourselves and possibly make a statement.”
In her own quiet way, Maya Joseph certainly spoke up with her play in Game 3, giving Skyline an early lead with two big kills. The teams stayed very close and were tied at 8-all; Sky High was hesitant on one play and lost a point, then lost another on a tough service error that pout Skyline up, 12-9.
Joseph smoked a big kill to make it 14-10, and the team defense was perfect at the end, authoring a block for the final point.
“We not a team that talks a lot, but in the first set we were talking more … we had more energy, but we got ahead of ourselves,” Joseph said. “We needed to slow things down and play our game, not just what they gave us. I like to get amped up (in pressure situations); the energy of having something on the line makes me want to play better, and when you get the kill it feels really good, because everyone is hyped for you. It’s a good moment.”
by Marcos Aragon
The Arizona Storm 17 Thunder is brewing after their first win of the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT, over Summit 17 National in straight sets. Solid blocking and outstanding kills fueled the Storm to victory Saturday.
But the way that Storm setter Shannon Shields manipulated the Summit blockers to set up her teammates was nothing short of masterful.
“I give a ton of credit to that kid,” said Storm head coach Jami Rolfes, who praised Shields’ ability to find splits for her hitters to exploit.
“Shannon is amazing,” added Rolfes, “She’s really good at seeing the block and going opposite the flow and getting our splits, and that’s huge in our offense. I know we look big but compared to some of these teams we play, we really rely on those splits … so she does an amazing job at just seeing what the blockers are doing and going opposite.”
Summit led early in the first set but once it was tied at 10-10, they lost a hold of the set for good. The Storm won 25-21 behind terrific blocking down the stretch, never allowing Summit to regain the lead or get within one point.
The second set belonged entirely to the Storm. They came out hot due to their defense saving possessions and their hitters nailing their shots. The Storm blew over Summit, 25-12.
“We worked a ton on blocking, so it was nice to actually see it show up this match,” said Rolfes, “If we can set up a good block, our defense can just basically set themselves up to dig balls … I think big plays on defense gets the team going, too, and it brings up that energy level and keeps them hyped. I’m super proud of these girls and how they played that match.”
Shields knows how important it is to her team for her to set up them up successfully but also looks at how much they come together during the matches as a big component for their win.
“I feel like the chemistry we’ve had throughout the years with this team has been really great,” Shields said. “We got two new players this year, and I feel like they came in and they’re ready to go. It’s been really fun.”
After praising her new teammates this season, Shields looked back on last season’s tournament and wants her team to atone for their underwhelming performance.
“I think we’re ready to just do it. The year before, we didn’t do as well as we thought we would, and I think it’s time for some redemption.”
Despite the loss, Summit head coach Andy Gass is still confident in his girls’ ability to regroup and come back strong.
“I’m always ready to go, so I know they will be too. We were 2-3 at nationals and ended up third in the nation,” he said. “We know how to bounce back after not having great days or tough matches and losing and stuff; they always rebound strong and play through it.”