Way-Too-Early 2018 VolleyMob Top 25 Power Rankings (Full List with HM)

  2 Derek Johnson | June 04th, 2018 | ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, Conference USA, Division I Mid-Major, Missouri Valley Conference, Mountain West, News, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, WCC

The 2017 season came to a close and the Nebraska Cornhuskers are the National Champions for the second time in the last three years. The Huskers do lose some big names heading into 2018, but should be locked and loaded once again. However, we have a different team in the top spot with more starters back, who will be looking to copy Nebraska’s path of National Championship to Final Four loss to another title run.

Over the course of the week we released our Way-Too-Early 2018 VolleyMob Top 25 Power Rankings five at a time, narrowing things down to the top five on Friday. In case you missed any of it, here is our full top 25.

Since these rankings are early and we don’t necessarily have the full picture in terms of recruiting and transfers, most of this is based on experience and starters returning. The top team has plenty of both, as the 2016 National Champions kick things off:

1. STANFORD CARDINAL

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Final Four, #4 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 30-4 (19-1, Pac-12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 5 + Libero
  • Key Returners: OH Kathryn Plummer (2017 AVCA Player of the Year, Two-time AVCA First-Team AA), S Jenna Gray (2017 AVCA First-Team AA), L Morgan Hentz (2017 AVCA First-Team AA), MB Audriana Fitzmorris (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA), MB Tami Alade (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Meghan McClure (2017 Pac-12 Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: RS Merete Lutz (Four-time AVCA Second/Third-Team AA)
  • Bottom Line: Stanford will have to overcome the loss of Lutz, who was their best attacker in the Final Four loss to Florida, but even then Lutz started in 16 matches with Kate Formico as a DS starting 14. They also have an incredible amount back with experience now playing in two Final Fours and winning a title. In 2015 Nebraska won it all but lost in the Final Four in 2016 before winning it all this year. The Cardinal have followed the first two years of that path and should have a great chance to repeat as the soon-to-be junior class of Plummer-Gray-Hentz may represent the best player in the country at each position. Two talented middles add to it as well in Alade and Fitzmorris.

2. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Sweet 16, #8 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 28-6 (15-5 Big Ten)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 5
  • Key Returners: RS Stephanie Samedy (2017 AVCA First-Team AA), S Samantha Seliger-Swenson (Three-time AVCA AA, 2017 Second-Team), OH Alexis Hart (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA)
  • Key Losses: MB Molly Lohman (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: Minnesota does lose a solid middle in Molly Lohman and libero Dalianliz Rosado, who’s been an underrated aspect of the defense the past few years, but has five starters back in what could potentially be another Final Four trip. Overall though, their five starters returning should make them an elite offense with Seliger-Swenson facilitating the attack. Stephanie Samedy should be a National Player of the Year candidate too. They should have plenty of depth after they owned seven freshmen and four sophomores this past season and still had a strong year. A new mix of talented freshman joins the bunch as well with head coach Hugh McCutcheon always hitting the recruiting trail hard.

3. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: National Champions, #1 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 32-4 (19-1, Big Ten)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 2 + Libero
  • Key Returners: OH Mikaela Foecke (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA), OH Jazz Sweet (2017 Big Ten Freshman Team), MB Lauren Stivrins (2017 Big Ten Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: S Kelly Hunter (Two-time AVCA AA, 2017 First-Team), OH Annika Albrecht (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA), MB Briana Holman (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: The Huskers lose four senior starters off of 2017’s National Championship roster, including three who earned some sort of All-America recognition. The most notable is legendary setter Kelly Hunter, who shared NCAA Tournament MOP with Mikaela Foecke. They struggled a bit early in the year when she was hurt, but on the bright side they have more experience playing without her now. Don’t let the two returning starters fool you though as Nebraska had eight first year players led by Stivrins and Sweet. Many of those youngsters didn’t start but saw valuable match experience. For example, Sweet only started six matches but was the first pin player off the bench and played in every match as a high-level option. They also tack on yet another great recruiting class and former top recruit and Texas transfer Lexi Sun. After wondering how good they could be in retooling last year, we put our trust in John Cook and put them at #3.

4. WISCONSIN BADGERS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Sweet 16, #14 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 22-10 (11-9 Big Ten)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4 + Libero
  • Key Returners: MB Dana Rettke (2017 AVCA First-Team AA, Freshman of the Year), S Sydney Hilley (2017 AVCA All-America HM), MB Tionna Williams (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Key Losses: None with award recognition
  • Bottom Line: Wisconsin brings back a strong four starters plus the libero, but still has to overcome some losses as they bid farewell to a pair of solid players in Lauryn Gillis and Kelli Bates. However, with seven freshmen and five sophomores in 2017, the Badgers will be much more experienced and have a Player of the Year candidate in Rettke at the forefront. The wild card in it all is the return of Molly Haggerty, who was a 2016 AVCA All-America Third Team selection and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year before missing 2017 with a back injury. Madison Duello and Grace Loberg, who surged late in the season, should help round out what should be one of the more complete teams in the country and could easily win the Big Ten.

5. BYU COUGARS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Sweet 16, #9 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 30-3 (17-1 WCC)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 5 + Libero
  • Key Returners: OH Veronica Jones-Perry (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA), L Mary Lake (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH McKenna Miller (2017 AVCA All-America HM), S Lyndie Haddock (2017 WCC HM), MB Kennedy Redding (2017 WCC Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: MB Cosy Burnett (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: The Cougars were likely underseeded by the tournament committee this past season but for the second straight year almost upended their Sweet 16 host and fell short in a fifth. The 2018 team could be the one that breaks through and challenges for a National Championship similar to 2014, as they return six of their seven starters with three who earned some sort of All-America status. Veronica Jones-Perry could emerge as a Player of the Year candidate too on a team that has plenty of other options. They’ll need Redding to progress in year two as BYU loses yet another productive middle, but if she makes a jump along with highly recruited Taylen Ballard in year two, they should be one of the top teams in the country.

6. TEXAS LONGHORNS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Elite Eight, #5 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 27-3 (16-0 Big 12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 3
  • Key Returners: OH Micaya White (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA, 2016 First-Team), S Ashley Shook (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Key Losses: MB Chiaka Ogbogu (Four-time AVCA AA, Three on First-Team), L Cat McCoy (2017 AVCA All-America HM), RS Ebony Nwanebu (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Lexi Sun (2017 AVCA All-America HM via transfer)
  • Bottom Line: Texas suffers some big losses in a four-time All-American (Ogbogu), a dynamic attacker (Nwanebu) and the school’s all-time dig leader (McCoy), but Texas always reshuffles the deck. It seemed like a smoother transition before Lexi Sun decided to transfer, but that deck this year still has a lot of young talent. White is one of the best outside hitters in the country while Shook should grow as a sophomore in facilitating the offense. Talented players like Yaazie Bedart-Ghani and Orie Agbaji could be more prominent too, but the big key will be the middle blocker position with the loss of Ogbogu. Morgan Johnson improved as a junior and the secret weapon is Brionne Butler, a 6’4″ middle blocker who redshirted in 2017 after coming in as the #2 recruit in the nation. The biggest question though once again will be passing.

7. FLORIDA GATORS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: National Championship Match, #3 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 30-2 (17-1 SEC)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 3
  • Key Returners: MB Rachael Kramer (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA)
  • Key Losses: MB Rhamat Alhassan (Four-time AVCA AA, Two-time First-Team), RS Shainah Joseph (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA), OH Carli Snyder (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA), L Caroline Knop (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: The Gators had arguably the best season in program history, reaching the National Championship match for the second time ever in addition to winning the SEC along with 30 victories. They lose one of the program’s best senior classes and will have plenty to fill for the year ahead. Kramer eases some in the middle for Alhassan, while Paige Hammons should be ready to move into a star role after coming in as a highly touted freshman in 2017. Speaking of well-regarded freshmen, Florida will have a host of skilled new faces led by the #1 recruit in Thayer Hall, who should make a huge impact immediately. Adding to the newcomers is 6’7″ setter Holly Carlton, a transfer from UNC who should make for an intimidating block with the 6’8″ Kramer. They should stick around for a shot at the SEC once again, but 2018 may serve as a build-up for another even bigger run in 2019.

8. USC TROJANS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Elite Eight, #7 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 25-10 (14-6 Pac-12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 3 + Libero
  • Key Returners: OH Khalia Lanier (2017 AVCA First-Team AA)
  • Key Losses: RS Brittany Abercrombie (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA), RS Niki Withers (2017 Pac-12 HM)
  • Bottom Line: After starting 2017 unranked, USC made its way to the Elite Eight and came a point away from upending Florida. They do have a couple of questions for 2018 though. Maybe the most important is how will Brent Crouch transition into the head coaching job after Mick Haley was surprisingly fired. Beyond that, the biggest question is how do they replace Abercrombie and Withers on the right pin. Still though, there is enough depth on the team to fill some of those holes and help out Player of the Year candidate Khalia Lanier. They also tacked on two-time All-WCC middle Jasmine Gross to the fold. Maybe the biggest boost though would be if they get soon-to-be sophomore Brooke Botkin to play like she did at the end of the year when she had 27 kills in the final two matches.

9. KENTUCKY WILDCATS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Elite Eight, #6 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 29-4 (17-1 SEC)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 3
  • Key Returners: OH Leah Edmond (Two-Time AVCA AA, 2017 First-Team), S Madison Lilley (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA)
  • Key Losses: MB Kaz Brown (2017 AVCA All-America HM), L Ashley Dusek (2017 AVCA All-America HM), MB Emily Franklin (2017 All-SEC First-Team)
  • Bottom Line: Kentucky is fresh off of its best season in program history, as they cracked the Elite Eight for the first time after winning the SEC and earning a top four seed. They’ll have to weather a bit of a storm of losses, mainly in regards to their defense with a pair of middles and one of the best liberos in the country, Ashley Dusek, graduating. She also was the start to the offense with great passing, but an injury that vaulted Gabby Curry into the lineup gives the team more experience without her. If they can find a way to piece together the defense then they should be more than okay, as dynamic offense stars Leah Edmond and Madison Lilley should help give the Wildcats one of the top attacks in 2018. Avery Skinner will also be key, as the highly-touted freshman was second on the team in kills in year one and will be looking to make a big jump as a sophomore.

10. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Final Four, #2 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 33-2 (19-1 Big Ten)
  • Starters Likely Returning: 1 + Libero
  • Key Returners: L Kendall White (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA)
  • Key Losses: OH Simone Lee (Two-Time AVCA First-Team AA), MB Haleigh Washington (Three-time AVCA First-Team AA), OH Ali Frantti (2017 AVCA All-America HM), S/OH Abby Detering (2017 AVCA All-America HM), RS Heidi Thelen (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: The Nittany Lions had a fantastic year where they were number one for a majority of the season but fell in the Final Four. Now, they hit the reboot button as they return just one starter and the libero. They also lost players to transfer in former highly-touted recruits Cami May and Michaela Putnicki. The good news though is Penn State always recruits so well, including for this upcoming season, that the cupboards are full. They also garnered a huge addition with graduate transfer and former North Carolina outside hitter/two-time All-ACC performer Taylor Leath. They’ll still be ultra talented but the question will be how ready and experienced can the team be with so many questions.

11. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Sweet 16, #20 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 23-11 (12-8 Big Ten)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 6
  • Key Returners: MB Ali Bastianelli (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA), S Jordyn Poulter (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA), OH Megan Cooney (2017 Big Ten Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: L Brandi Donnelly (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: The rugged Big Ten has shown favor to experienced-laden teams. For instance look no further to last year with Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan State making runs in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois could be like the Spartans this year as a Big Ten dark horse after last season they had just one senior on the roster compared to nine freshman. They also had three juniors and three sophomores. Unfortunately, the one senior lost was Donnelly, who missed the award stage after missing matches with injury. Her team-best 4.44 digs per set were vital though. They also lose their second best blocker in middle Tyanna Omazic to transfer. Still, with so much returning and a strong end to 2017, the Fighting Illini are a team to watch in 2018.

12. UCLA BRUINS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Sweet 16, #15 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 21-11 (12-8 Pac-12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4 + Libero
  • Key Returners: MB Madeleine Gates (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA), L Zana Muno (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Mac May (2017 Pac-12 Freshman Team & HM), OH Jenny Mosser (2017 Pac-12 Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: S Sarah Sponcil (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Reily Buechler (2017 Pac-12 First-Team)
  • Bottom Line: The Bruins lost several impact performers heading into 2017 after making the Elite Eight in 2016, but re-tooled with a strong freshman class and a big transfer addition. That transfer, Sponcil, was great in a position change to setter and helped push the Bruins back to the Sweet 16. They’ll have a hole to fill at that same spot now and also lose Buechler, but have plenty of options back at the front of the net to pair with Muno in the back. The combination of the returning talent should make for a better UCLA in 2018 as the battle between the Los Angeles schools could determine a top-two finish in another loaded version of the Pac-12.

13. OREGON DUCKS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, RV in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 18-12 (10-10 Pac-12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 5*
  • Key Returners: MB Ronika Stone (2017 All-Pac-12 First Team), OH Jolie Rasmussen (2017 Pac-12 HM), OH Lindsey Vander Weide (2017 Pac-12 HM)
  • Key Losses: RS Taylor Agost (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Bottom Line: Oregon had a rough end to 2017, but the start showed some of the potential they have when they upended Nebraska. They go through some losses, but a big core of the team progresses to pair with a yet another strong recruiting class. Pegging the amount of returning starters is difficult because they had eight players log 13 or more starts. Of that group, six players return. Seven of the eight started more than half of the team’s matches and five of those return. If you just take the top six for matches started, five are back as well. Regardless of the number, they’re on pace to have eight upperclassmen to mix with the new faces, giving them a high ceiling for 2018.

14. WASHINGTON HUSKIES

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #13 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 25-8 (14-6 Pac-12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 1+*
  • Key Returners: MB Lauren Sanders (2017 Pac-12 Freshman Team)
  • Key Losses: RS Carly DeHoog (2017 AVCA Third-Team AA), L Tia Scambray (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Courtney Schwan (2017 AVCA All-America HM), OH Crissy Jones (2017 Pac-12 HM), S Bailey Tanner (2017 Pac-12 HM)
  • Bottom Line: The number of returning starters is complicated for Washington, who with a rash of injuries had 11 players start eight or more matches. That makes things difficult in distinguishing who to count as a returning starter, but if you base it on the top six then just one returns in Sanders (who tied for the team-lead with 32 starts). Again though, Shayne McPherson, Kara Bajema, Destiny Julye and Avie Niece combined for 38 starts and all return, so realistically its a much more experienced team than that ‘one starter’ indicates. A big-time recruiting class in 2018 joins the group along with Maryland transfer Samantha Dreschel, creating a talented but challenging group of players for Keegan Cook to coach up.

15. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, RV in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 21-12 (11-9 Big Ten)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4 + Libero
  • Key Returners: OH Carly Skjodt (2017 AVCA Third-Team All-American)
  • Key Losses: MB Claire Kieffer-Wright (2017 AVCA All-America HM)
  • 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, other solid returners like Cori Crocker (2.07 kills per set, .313, 0.96 blocks per set) and company paired with a solid recruiting class and transfer MB/RS Katarina Glavinic (gives the Wolverines big aspirations in 2018.

16. COLORADO BUFFALOES

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Sweet 16, #16 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 24-10 (12-8 Pac-12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4 + Libero
  • Key Returners: OH Alexa Smith (2017 AVCA Second-Team AA), S Brynna Deluzio (2017 AVCA All-America HM), MB Naghede Abu (2017 Pac-12 HM), OH Frankie Shebby (2017 Pac-12 HM)
  • Key Losses: RS Joslyn Hayes (2017 Pac-12 HM)
  • Bottom Line: Colorado should be ready to rock in 2018 after a phenomenal 2017 season. They bring back four starters plus the libero, led by Alexa Smith – a dark horse Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate if the Buffaloes can rise up the standings. They’ll have to overcome the loss of Hayes along with a starting middle blocker and a solid bench option, but the pieces are there for the Buffaloes to be even better in 2018. That especially rings true after they have NCAA Tournament experience and success under their belt from the previous season.

17. CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #12 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 26-7 (16-2 Big East)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4* + Libero
  • 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)
  • Bottom Line: Technicaly 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 loss comes at setter with Dimke, Crawford (who could fill in) and Jaclyn Taylor (transferring to Omaha) gone. 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 Megan Sharkey. That’ll be crucial with all the success they’ve had over the last two years as they struggled in the matches without Dimke.

18. BAYLOR BEARS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #17 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 24-7 (13-3 Big 12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4
  • 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)
  • 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. They’ll have to overcome the loss of libero Jana Brusek as well, but Baylor should be the favorite to come in second of the Big 12.

19. PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, RV in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 26-7 (18-2 ACC)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 6 + Libero
  • 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
  • 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. That should make them the preseason ACC favorites and give them a shot at hosting in the opening rounds.

20. NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, RV in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 27-9 (15-3 MVC)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 5 + Libero
  • 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)
  • 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.

21. SAN DIEGO TOREROS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #18 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 25-5 (17-1 WCC)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4
  • 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)
  • Bottom Line: The Toreros have been on a strong run as a program and were co-WCC champions a season ago as they were hot headed into the tournament. They came close to upending USC but couldn’t finish the job too and will look for another strong season with plenty back but also plenty to replace led by one of the best setters in the country in Gengenbacher. Adding a high-end talent in Penn State transfer Cami May should also give the team a strong replacement for Kennedy.

22. IOWA STATE CYCLONES

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #21 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 22-7 (11-5 Big 12)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 3 + Libero
  • 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)
  • 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 to join three starters and the libero returning to make this another consistently solid season.

23. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #19 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 23-10 (12-8 Big Ten)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 3 + Libero
  • 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)
  • 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. If their recruiting class blends in well with what they have back, they should stick near the top half of the loaded Big Ten.

24. CAL POLY MUSTANGS

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: Second Round, #24 in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 27-3 (16-0 Big West)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 4 + Libero
  • 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)
  • 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 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.

25. MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES

  • 2017 Finish/Rank: First Round, UR in final VM Top 25
  • 2017 Record: 22-10 (15-3 Big East)
  • Starters Likely Returning for 2018: 6 + Libero
  • 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
  • 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.

On the Cusp/’Receiving Votes’:

Missouri

Washington State

Wichita State

Louisville

Florida State

Hawaii

LSU

North Carolina

Utah

Oregon State

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I really hate wasting time reading postings when it is clear the author just didn’t do any research or have any knowledge of the topic. In this case, concerning Nebraska losing setter Kelly Hunter to graduation you write, that they struggled a bit early last year “when she was hurt, but on the bright side they have more experience playing without her now.” Really? Yes they “struggled” without Hunter, they lost both matches without her, but how in the world did Nebraska garner “more experience paying without her”? The only one who got more “experience” when Hunter couldn’t play was Hunter Atherton, who is no longer at Nebraska. So again, how did Nebraska benefit from Kelly Hunter being hurt for 2 matches in 2017? Saddened by the lack of knowledge you have for the team that won the National Championship in 2017. #sad.

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