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.
- #21-25 below:
21. SAN DIEGO TOREROS
- 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #18 in final VM Top 25
- 2017 Record: 25-5 (17-1 WCC)
- Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 12/4
- Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 6 (2)/0/1
- Key Returners: MB Addison Picha (2017 AVCA All-America HM), MB Kaity Edwards (2017 WCC HM), OH Roxie Wiblin (2017 WCC Freshman Team)
- Key Losses: S Kristen Gengenbacher (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA), RS Jayden Kennedy (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
- Key Additions: OH Katie Lukes (UA Third-Team AA), DS/L Annie Benbow (UA All-America HM), RS Cami May (Penn State transfer; former top 100 PrepVolleyball recruit)
- Bottom Line: The Toreros were co-WCC champions a season ago and came close to upending USC in the second round but couldn’t finish the job. Now they will look for another strong season with plenty back but also plenty to replace. The second part of that is led by one of the best setters in the country in Gengenbacher. Anna Newsome has the most experience to replace her and logged 483 assists as a true freshman in a 6-2 with her in 2016, but playing time dropped last year. Adding a high-end talent in Penn State transfer Cami May should also give the team a strong replacement for Kennedy on the right pin, but even then it’ll be near impossible for her to reach the production of Kennedy (399 kills in 2017). The others will have to fill the rest, which is very possible since five players notched 200+ kills last year and all are back besides Kennedy.
22. IOWA STATE CYCLONES
- 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #21 in final VM Top 25
- 2017 Record: 22-7 (11-5 Big 12)
- Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 9/3 + Libero
- Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 4 (2)/0/1
- Key Returners: L Hali Hillegas (2017 AVCA All-America HM, Big 12 LOTY), OH Jess Schaben (2017 AVCA All-America HM), MB Avery Rhodes (2017 Big 12 Freshman Team)
- Key Losses: RS Samara West (2017 Big 12 First Team)
- Key Additions: OH Brooke Andersen (UA Second-Team AA), S/RS Eleanor Holthaus (UA All-America HM), MB/RS Candelaria Herrera (Florida A&M transfer; MEAC First-Team)
- Bottom Line: The Cyclones continue to rack up top three finishes in the Big 12 and should be projected to do more of the same in 2018. The loss of West hurts, but they have plenty of depth coming back at the position with 6’3″ senior Hannah Bailey, a highly-recruited freshman and Herrera, the 2017 MEAC Rookie of the Year. They’ve got other depth and newcomers as well that can make a contribution to join three starters and the libero returning. Speaking of that libero, Hillegas is one of the best in the country. Combine that with Iowa State also sporting a top-notch defense year in and year out and you know this team will be a consistent challenge that may not pop off the page but contends at a top 25 level.
23. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
- 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #19 in final VM Top 25
- 2017 Record: 23-10 (12-8 Big Ten)
- Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 9/3 + Libero
- Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 6 (3)/1/0
- Key Returners: RS Sherridan Atkinson (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA)
- Key Losses: MB/OH Danielle Cuttino (2017 AVCA First-Team AA), S Ashley Evans (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
- Key Additions: DS/L Marissa Hornung (UA First-Team AA), MB Grace Cleveland (UA All-America HM), MB Jael Johnson (UA All-America HM), OH Garrett Joiner (#93 PrepVolleyball Recruit), S Hayley Bush (Redshirted in 2017; 2016 UA Third-Team AA)
- Bottom Line: Purdue will have to overcome some critical losses heading into 2018, but they have some nice options returning – both in starters and off the bench from 2017. Atkinson gives them a go-to option while players like middle blockers Blake Mohler and Shavona Cuttino should bring a strong presence at the net defensively. The big key to them staying in the top 25 and surviving in the tough Big Ten will be if their recruiting class can blend in well with what they have back. It’s a big class coming in, but there is plenty of talent to match. That should load them up on middles but there will be pressure on some of the pin players to step up. However good Hayley Bush can be after redshirting in her inaugural season is vital as well, as she replaces Evans. Regardless, the future is bright for the Boilermakers with 11 freshmen/sophomores to just three seniors.
24. MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES
- 2017 Finish/Rank: First Round, UR in final VM Top 25
- 2017 Record: 22-10 (15-3 Big East)
- Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 12/6 + Libero
- Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 3 (1)/0/0
- Key Returners: OH Allie Barber (2017 AVCA All-America HM, Big East POTY), MB Jenna Rosenthal (2017 Big East First-Team), S Lauren Speckman (2017 Big East Second-Team), OH Hope Werch (2017 Big East FOTY)
- Key Losses: None with award recognition
- Key Additions: S Claire Mosher (UA All-America HM)
- Bottom Line: The Golden Eagles weren’t far off from being on the cusp of the VolleyMob Top 25 Power Rankings, as they were for a majority of the year but lost their final two matches. They should take their experience from last year and build on it in 2018 with all of their starters back and should give Creighton everything they can handle with a Big East crown on the line, where they fell just a tad short in 2017. They’ve got everything you could want to win the league, and if they can do so with everyone back they could be in the discussion to host in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
25. CAL POLY MUSTANGS
- 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #24 in final VM Top 25
- 2017 Record: 27-3 (16-0 Big West)
- Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 9/4 + Libero
- Incoming Freshmen (AVCA All-Americans)/Redshirts/Transfers: 5 (0)/1/1
- Key Returners: OH Adlee Van Winden (2017 AVCA All-America HM), RS Torrey Van Winden (2017 AVCA All-America HM), L Katherine Brouker (2017 Big West HM), MB Madilyn Mercer (2017 Big West Freshman Team)
- Key Losses: S Taylor Nelson (2017 AVCA All-America HM, Big West POTY), OH Raeann Greisen (2017 Big West First-Team), MB Savannah Niemen (2017 Big West First-Team)
- Key Additions: OH Jamie Stivers (Duke transfer)
- Bottom Line: Cal Poly should once again make for an interesting race with Hawaii atop the Big West, and will likely be the conference favorite. They’ll have to prove they can overcome the loss of the Big West Player of the Year in Nelson, but Adlee Van Winden or sister/former UCLA transfer Torrey Van Winden could easily take the baton and win the award. The loss of Niemen and Greisen also hurts, but Greisen was seldom a starter after non-conference play and the Mustangs have plenty of firepower returning along with a transfer addition in former Duke OH Jamie Stivers. Add to it that just two players on Cal Poly’s roster are seniors – albeit important players in Adlee and Brouker – and this team should be around the rankings for at least this year and next. Still, a ton rests on the setter spot where the two looking to fill Nelson’s shoes are freshmen (one true and one redshirt).