VolleyMob’s 2018 Preseason Top 25 (#16-20): Pittsburgh Carries the ACC Flag

  0 Derek Johnson | August 14th, 2018 | ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, Missouri Valley Conference, News, Rankings

The 2018 women’s season begins in less than two weeks now, and after releasing our Way-Too-Early 2018 VolleyMob Top 25 Power Rankings back in June, we’ve updated the list to get set for opening week. With that said, we will be releasing teams five at a time with a full list including honorable mention picks coming on Friday for our official 2018 Preseason Top 25.


  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #17 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 24-7 (13-3 Big 12)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 11/4
  • Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 4 (1)/1/1
  • Key Returners: MB Shelly Fanning (2017 AVCA All-America HM), S Hannah Lockin (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Yossiana Pressley (2017 AVCA All-America HM, Big 12 FOTY), OH Aniah Philo (2017 Big 12 Second-Team)
  • Key Losses: OH Katie Staiger (2017 Big 12 First-Team, 2016 AVCA Second-Team AA)
  • Key Additions: DS/L Shanel Bramschreiber (UA All-America HM), MB Sydney Sacra (Top 100 PrepVolleyball Recruit), OH Gia Milana (Maryland transfer; 2016 Big Ten HM)
  • Bottom Line: The Bears are coming off their best season in program history as they earned a spot hosting in the NCAA Tournament before getting upended in the second round. Who knows what the result would have been had Katie Staiger been healthy all season, but on the bright side that may have helped develop some of their young talent for 2018 such as Yossiana Pressley. Bringing on another dynamic pin player in Maryland transfer Gia Milana should help too, as they are loaded on the left pin and potentially with back-row attackers in her, Pressley and Philo. They’ll have to overcome the loss of libero Jana Brusek as well, but with a talented core of freshmen coming in and a potential replacement in the group, Baylor should be the favorite to come in second of the Big 12.


  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, RV in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 26-7 (18-2 ACC)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 13/6 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 4 (1)/0/0
  • Key Returners: RS Nika Markovic (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Stephanie Williams (2017 AVCA All-America HM), S Kamalani Akeo (2017 All-ACC First Team), OH Kayla Lund (2017 ACC Freshman Team), MB/RS Chinaza Ndee (2017 ACC Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: None with award recognition
  • Key Additions: OH Natalie Steibel (UA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: The Panthers enjoyed a phenomenal season as they built on 2016 success with an even better 2017. The Co-ACC Champions won an NCAA Tournament match and even played Penn State tight before bowing out. 2018 might be the pinnacle of the last three years for the program, as they return all of their starters. Plenty of depth returns alongside and experience is the name of the game with five juniors and four seniors. Even some of their newcomers could contribute with three of their four freshmen as PrepVolleyball Top 250 Recruits for the class of 2018. That should make them the preseason ACC favorites and give them a shot at hosting in the opening rounds.


  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #12 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 26-7 (16-2 Big East)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 8/4* + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 4 (3)/0/3
  • Key Returners: L Brittany Witt (2017 AVCA All-America HM, Big East LOTY), OH Jaali Winters (2017 Big East First-Team), OH Taryn Kloth (2017 Big East Second-Team)
  • Key Losses: S Lydia Dimke (2017 AVCA All-America HM), MB Marysa Wilkinson (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Key Additions: OH Keely Davis (UA First-Team AA), OH Jaela Zimmerman (UA Second-Team AA), MB Annika Welty (UA Third-Team AA), S Megan Sharkey (Rutgers transfer), S Madelyn Cole (Marshall transfer), DS/L Grace Nelson (Ball State transfer)
  • Bottom Line: Technically Creighton only returns three starters if you base it on who started at least half of the matches, but the semi-starter they lose in Kenzie Crawford (12 starts) is replaced by Alexa Roumeliottis (14 starts) and Kloth (eight starts). The biggest losses come at setter with Dimke, Crawford (who could fill in) and Jaclyn Taylor (transferring to Omaha). They did get a tad bit of experience playing when Dimke was injured though as Samantha Bohnet was the team’s leader in assists during the absence plus the BlueJays add Rutgers transfer Sharkey and Cole from Marshall. Beyond that, they have plenty of attack options. Their potential to rise higher rests with what the newcomers provide and any breakout campaigns, such as sophomore 6’4″ MB/RS Naomi Hickman or middle Megan Ballenger stepping their game up to the next level. They should also have lineups with great passing/back-row defense between Witt, Roumeliottis (a top 25 PrepVolleyball Recruit in 2016) and Nelson.


  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, RV in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 21-12 (11-9 Big Ten)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 12/4 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 6 (4)/0/1
  • Key Returners: OH Carly Skjodt (2017 AVCA Third-Team All-American)
  • Key Losses: MB Claire Kieffer-Wright (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Key Additions: S Erin O’Leary (UA First-Team AA), OH Abbey Malinowski (UA Third-Team AA), OH Grace Persson (UA Third-Team AA), OH Paige Jones (UA All-America HM), MB/OH/RS Katarina Glavinic (Seattle transfer)
  • Bottom Line: Michigan began 2017 ranked, hit a rut in the middle and didn’t recover until season’s end when they won five straight including three over ranked opponents. There will still be questions if it was just a hot finish as opposed to turning the corner, especially when adding in the loss of Kieffer-Wright. However, the combination of Skjodt and other solid returners like Cori Crocker (2.07 kills per set, .313, 0.96 blocks per set) should put Michigan in the midst of the Big Ten conversation. How much they can truly achieve will be dependent on a freshmen class that makes up a third of the roster but has plenty of hype coming in. Transfer MB/RS Katarina Glavinic could also be a wild card in the mix for the Wolverines, a team that not just should be a presence this season but also in 2019 with the freshmen and a group of six juniors in 2018.


  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, RV in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 27-9 (15-3 MVC)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 10/5 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 5 (1)/0/0
  • Key Returners: OH Karlie Taylor (2017 AVCA All-America HM), MB Piper Thomas (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Bri Weber (2017 MVC First-Team), OH Jaydlin Seehase (2017 MVC Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: S Heather Hook (2017 AVCA All-America HM, MVC Setter of the Year)
  • Key Additions: OH Baylee Petersen (UA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: The Panthers have been one of the top ‘mid-major’ schools of late, and really emerged on the scene in 2017 with highlight wins over Nebraska, Iowa State, Missouri and USC. They have all but one starter back in looking for more in 2018 too. Unfortunately that one starter was their all-everything setter Heather Hook, but if they can fill the role they should have a smooth ride to an MVC title. Those honors could either go to redshirt junior Rachel Koop or highly-touted true freshman Tayah Mahi, but regardless that will be the story. If they can do that and have another successful non-conference slate to pair with a potential MVC title, they’d be in the discussion to host in the first two rounds.

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