Big Ten volleyball getting stronger
Volleyball Magazine named its top recruiting classes for the 2014 season on July 10. Five Big Ten teams made the Top 10 — including defending national champ Penn State at No. 1 — while four others were in ranked in the Top 25.
Illinois, with just two incoming freshmen this season, was not among the nine Big Ten programs in the Top 25. Brandi Donnelly (Williamsville) was an early enrollee this spring, while Matti Bielfeldt (Peoria Notre Dame) signed with the Illini in May.
Rounding out Illinois’ newest crop of players is Arizona State transfer Allison Palmer. The red-shirt sophomore from Laguna Beach, Calif., set the Sun Devils’ single-season assists record as a freshman. She sat out last season, transferred to Illinois this spring and is eligible to play this fall.
Here’s a look at those Big Ten teams that did make the Top 10, while Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin all ended up in the honorable mention list as part of the Top 25.
1. Penn State — It’s a matter of the rich getting richer with the Nittany Lions. Their recruiting class, which features six members of Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50, has been heralded as one of the all-time greatest classes in women’s volleyball history. The headliner is Haleigh Washington, a 6-foot-4 middle blocker and two-time Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year who had 589 kills as a senior.
2. Southern California
3. Purdue — Boilermakers coach Dave Shondell pulled top talent from across the country with four Fab 50 selections in his 2014 class. Azariah Stahl was the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year, Christina Ambrose won the same award out of Florida and Indianapolis native Danielle Cuttino was on the U.S. Junior National Team that won gold at the U-20 NORCECA Continental Championships in Guatemala last weekend.
6. Michigan State — The Spartans check in with a trio of Fab 50 selections, including 6-2 setter Rachel Minarick out of Waubonsie Valley High School. Michigan State’s haul also included a pair of Michigan native Fab 50 players (Alyssa Garvelink and Holly Toliver) that chose to stay home and play for the Spartans.
7. Michigan — Mark Rosen’s Wolverines tied Purdue with four Fab 50 selections. Two of those players — Adeja Lambert (Rockford Keith Country Day) and Katherine Mahlke (Downers Grove North) hail from Illinois.
8. Nebraska — Longtime Huskers coach John Cook added both an in-state and an Illinois native Fab 50 selection in another strong recruiting class at Nebraska. Olivia Boender (Waverly, Neb.) and Maddie Haggerty (Wheaton St. Francis) along with Annika Albrecht (North Aurora, home schooled) are all considered six-rotation players by Cook.
While Illinois wasn’t among the Top 25 this season, head coach Kevin Hambly has the makings of just that for 2015. All three of the Illini’s commits were among Volleyball Magazine’s “30 Underclassmen to Watch” released in February of this year.
The top recruit is Jordyn Poulter, who has been committed to the Illini since 2012. The 6-1 setter out of Centennial, Colo., was also on the U.S. Junior National Team that won gold in Guatemala.
She’s set to be joined in Champaign next year by 6-3 outside hitter Beth Prince (Avon, Ind.) and 6-2 middle blocker Allison Bastianelli (Marysville, Mich.).