VolleyMob’s NCAA Division I Women’s Preseason Poll #1-5

  0 Derek Johnson | August 18th, 2017 | ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, Division I Mid-Major, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, WCC

At the end of the season, we released a Way-Too-Early 2017 NCAA Women’s Division I Rankings. As the season is now nearly upon us, it’s time for our final preseason top-25, featuring contributions from eight different VolleyMob writers. Over the course of five days, we released five teams at a time. Today (day five), we release the final five.

Note: As eight different VolleyMob contributors voted on the poll, a standard scoring system of 25 points for being ranked number one, 24 for being number two and so forth was utilized. Number of first-place votes are shown in parenthesis next to the team while total voter points are dashed next to it.

Top 25 Releases:

1. TEXAS LONGHORNS (3) – 192 points

  • 2016: NCAA Runner-Up, #2 in final AVCA Poll, 27-5 (14-2, 2nd in Big 12)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 13/4 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 4 (2)/0
  • Key Losses: S Chloe Collins (2016 AVCA Second-Team All-American) and OH Paulina Prieto Cerame (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Key Returners: Ebony Nwanebu (2016 AVCA First-Team All-American) and Micaya White (2016 AVCA First-Team All-American)
  • Top Newcomers: MB Chiaka Ogbogu (two-time AVCA First-Team All-American/three-time AVCA All-American) (OH Lexi Sun (2017 HS UA First-Team AA), MB Brionne Butler (PrepVolleyball’s #2 Recruit) and S Ashley Shook (2017 HS UA First-Team AA)
  • Other Notes: *Former All-American middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu returns after a one-year hiatus due to ineligibility
  • Bottom Line: Texas will look to get back to the National Championship match and get over the hump after two straight runner-ups. The graduation of Prieto Cerame hurts, but it comes at the teams’ deepest spot. The biggest hole comes in replacing Collins at setter. Whoever takes over will have one of the best offensive units around her with White, Nwanebu, PrepVolleyball’s top two overall recruits in Lexi Sun and Brionne Butler and more. They had some issues identifying their middle blocker last year, as Yasmeen Bedart-Ghani finished the job with Morgan Johnson, who both return. One middle blocker spot seems secured, as Chiaka Ogbogu returns after a year of ineligibility. She is the reason why Texas comes in ahead of the team they lost to in the championship match as she was one of the best players in the country in 2015 and adds leadership to the court. Passing and serve reception at times was a weakness for Texas, who should be better with libero Cat McCoy back. It should be good enough to pair with the nation’s best attack as Texas has another magnificent opportunity for a title.

2. STANFORD CARDINAL (3) – 191 points

  • 2016: NCAA National Champions, #1 in final AVCA Poll, 27-7 (15-5, T-2nd in Pac-12)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 11/4 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 4 (1)/0
  • Key Losses: MB Inky Ajanaku (2016 AVCA First-Team All-American)
  • Key Returners: OH Kathryn Plummer (2016 AVCA First-Team All-American), RS Merete Lutz (2016 AVCA Third-Team All-American) and MB Audriana Fitzmorris (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Top Newcomers: OH Meghan McClure (2017 HS UA Second-Team AA) 
  • Other Notes: AVCA Coach of the Year and five-time NCAA Champion John Dunning retired
  • Bottom Line: The defending National Champions lose star middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, but the 2016 version of Stanford featured seven freshmen, with the likes of Plummer and Fitzmorris leading the way. Pac-12 Honorable Mention libero Morgan Hentz and soon-to-be sophomore Jenna Gray were also notable contributors in year one. The only senior on the roster in 2017, Merete Lutz, was strong in the opposite role after transitioning from middle blocker. They need the 6’8″ right side to continue her solid play but also progress as a senior leader, as beyond Inky Ajanaku‘s dominant play, her loss along with head coach John Dunning will test a still young Stanford team’s leadership.  Still, with all of the firepower and depth that was only increased with the likes of four highly-touted freshmen, the Cardinal have what it takes to repeat as National Champions in 2017.

3. WASHINGTON HUSKIES – 174 points

  • 2016: Elite Eight, #7 in final AVCA Poll, 29-5 (16-4, 1st in Pac-12)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 12/6 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 3 (1)/1
  • Key Losses: None
  • Key Returners: OH Courtney Schwan (2016 AVCA First-Team All-American, Pac-12 Player of the Year), OH Crissy Jones (2016 AVCA Second-Team All-American), S Bailey Tanner (2016 AVCA Second-Team All-American)
  • Top Newcomers: MB Marion Hazelwood (Oklahoma transfer; three-time AVCA All-America HM) and MB Lauren Sanders (2017 HS UA First-Team AA)
  • Other Notes: None
  • Bottom Line: People forget that it was Washington, not eventual-National Champion Stanford, who won the Pac-12 in 2016. In the offseason, they only graduated one senior and bring back three 2016 AVCA All-Americans. Add in Kara Bajema, who was All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention as a freshman in 2016, and Oklahoma transfer Marion Hazelwood to the mix as the Huskies bring back six starters and their libero, Shayne McPherson. They have the starting talent, and with 12 players back from the 2016 roster in addition to a three-women recruiting class that is highlighted by 2017 Under Armour-First-Team All-American Lauren Sanders, Washington has all the depth you could ask for. The trio of Schwan, Jones and Tanner also provides them with three stars that can go toe-to-toe with any threesome of players in the country.

4. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (1) – 161 points

  • 2016: Final Four, #3 in final AVCA Poll, 29-5 (17-3, T-2nd in Big Ten)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 11/3 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 6 (4)/0
  • Key Losses: Sarah Wilhite (2016 AVCA Player of the Year), Hannah Tapp (2016 AVCA Second-Team All-American) and Paige Tapp (Three-time All-Big Ten honoree)
  • Key Returners: S Samantha Seliger-Swenson (2016 Big Ten Setter of the Year, AVCA First-Team All-American), OH Alexis Hart (2016 AVCA All-America HM) and MB Molly Lohman (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Top Newcomers: MB Regan Pittman (Redshirted in 2016; 2016 HS UA First-Team AA), RS Stephanie Samedy (2017 HS UA First-Team AA), OH Sydney Kleinman (2017 HS UA Second-Team AA), OH Jasmyn Martin (2017 HS UA Second-Team AA) and S Sara Nielsen (2017 HS UA All-America HM)
  • Other Notes: None
  • Bottom Line: After pushing through to a second consecutive Final Four, Minnesota will look to maintain itself as one of the top programs in the country. It won’t be easy with some of their losses like the Tapp sisters and the reigning AVCA Player of the Year in Sarah Wilhite, but they’ve been able to reload before. Take just last year for example as they made another National Semifinal after losing 2015 Big Ten Player of the Year Daly Santana. They have one of the nation’s best recruiting classes with both quantity (six players) and quality among those six, with four even listed as Under Armour All-Americans. That gives Minnesota great depth, along with other recruits they’ve built up over the years. They need some of those players to step up, but it’s a great start with one of the country’s best setters in Seliger-Swenson, a viable option in Hart, a strong front-line defender in Lohman and a senior libero who racked up over 500 assists in 2016 in Dalianliz Rosado.


  • 2016: Final Four, #4 in final AVCA Poll, 31-3 (18-2, 1st in Big Ten)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 10/4
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 5 (4)/0
  • Key Losses: OH Kadie Rolfzen (2016 AVCA First-Team All-American), L Justine Wong-Orantes (2016 AVCA First-Team All-American) and MB Amber Rolfzen (2016 AVCA Third-Team All-American)
  • Key Returners: S Kelly Hunter (2016 AVCA Second-Team All-American), OH Mikaela Foecke (2016 AVCA All-America HM) and MB Briana Holman (2016 AVCA All-American HM)
  • Top Newcomers: S Hunter Atherton (Redshirted in 2016; 2016 HS UA First-Team AA), MB Lauren Stivrins (Redshirted in 2016; PrepVolleyball #9 recruit in 2016), MB Chesney McClellan (2017 HS UA First-Team AA), OH Jazz Sweet (2017 HS UA First-Team AA), OH Sami Slaughter (2017 HS UA Third-Team AA) and RS Anezka Szabo (2017 HS UA All-America AA)
  • Other Notes: None
  • Bottom Line: Over the course of two years, Nebraska won a National Championship, a Big Ten title and appeared in two Final Fours. Now, they lose the Rolfzen twins and libero Wong-Orantes, which hurts from a talent, leadership and experience perspective. On a positive note, Hunter is one of the top setters in the country and should form a strong connection if Foecke grows into a bigger role. Holman brings pop to both sides of the net while Annika Albrecht presents back row defense and may see more offensive action after starting 26 matches in 2016. They also have the cupboard full of players who haven’t seen much playing time but came in as top recruits. The mix of those potential breakouts and a top-notch recruiting class that features four Under Armour All-Americans gives Nebraska depth and keeps the roster loaded. The big question will be experience and can some unproven athletes push Nebraska from being really good to National Title contender once again.

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