Top 10 Volleyball Classes for 2007

As we prepare to close the 2006 college women's volleyball season, whe turn our attention to 2007. Several schools have hauled in top recruiting classes to restock their cupboards, and the debate rages as to who ranks #1 in the nation. Texas has arguably the best one-two combination coming to Austin next fall, but Stanford welcomes more depth and perhaps the top recruit in the sport's history.

Alix Klineman photo courtesy John Bartelt (

1. Stanford Cardinal

Players Lost:  Michelle Mellard, 6-3, MB; Nji Nnamani, 5-9, RS/DS; Kristin Richards, 6-0, OH; Lizzie Suiter, 6-2, MB

Incoming Freshmen:  Gabi Ailes, 5-6, OH/L; Stephanie Browne, 6-5, MB; Alix Klineman, 6-5, OH; Cassidy Lichtman, 6-0, OH/S

Two years after landing the top-ranked class in the nation, Stanford does it again with another balanced group of players that will continue the long line of success at The Farm.  In one of the most intense recruiting battles in the history of the sport, head coach John Dunning secured a commitment from Alix Klineman, a 6-5 outside hitter with all the necessary talent and skill set to be the next face of volleyball.  Need more proof?  How about the fact that she was the leading point scorer at the 2005 Girls' Under-18 World Championships.  Throw in the most versatile player in the class in Cassidy Lichtman, who not only has the ability to be a quality setter and a top-notch outside hitter, and one of the best blocking middles in 6-5 Stephanie Browne and you've got your bases covered for a blockbuster class.  Gabi Ailes will see time on the court next year in the back row and has the potential to be a Jaimi Gregory-type player for Stanford, which could dramatically improve its passing and defense.

2. Texas Longhorns

Players Lost:  Dariam Acevedo, 5-10, OH; Jenny Andrew, 6-2, S; Leticia Armstrong, 6-2, MB; Jennifer Todd, 6-3, MB

Incoming Freshmen:  Jennifer Doris, 6-5, MB; Juliann Faucette, 6-2, OH; Chelsey Klein, 5-9, L

Head coach Jerritt Elliott has demonstrated to be one of the top recruiters in the collegiate arena and has proven it once again with an amazing haul for the Class of 2011, signing today's best prep outside hitter/middle blocker combination in Juliann Faucette and Jennifer Doris.  Both were members of the U.S. Junior National Team and for good reason.  Faucette has skyrocketed to every coach's wish list with her awesome display of power from the antennas, crushing any set that comes her way.  Her lateral quickness allows her to be a great blocker and will make her a dominant force for Texas in the coming years.  Doris is a huge presence up at the net, working the nets to close out the block or using her high contact point to collect kill after kill.  She'll definitely compete for playing time, especially considering the graduation of Jennifer Todd and the early retirement of All-American Leticia Armstrong.  Chelsey Klein, a high school teammate of Faucette, will also don the Burnt Orange and White next year.

3. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Players Lost:  Kelly Bowman, 5-10, S; Megan Crumpston, 6-1, OH; Meredith Nelson, 6-3, MB; Marci Peniata, 5-9, L

Incoming Freshmen:  Hailey Cowles, 5-10, L; Brooke Dieter, 6-1, OH; Lauren Gibbemeyer, 6-2, MB; Charde Phillips, 6-0, OH

After Texas' one-two punch of Faucette and Doris, Minnesota comes in second with their own potent punch of outside hitter Brooke Dieter and middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer.  Dieter is a wonderful all-around player, with strong skills in all rotations, and her play enabled her to capture the 17's Open MVP award after leading her club team, the Northern Lights, to the Junior Olympic title this past July.  Gibbemeyer was also a member of the winning Northern Lights squad this past summer, manning the net with her athleticism and great timing.  She has the ability to hit any type of set thrown at her, but the slide is really her bread and butter.  Charde Phillips is new to volleyball, and though she has played middle in high school, her athleticism and aggressiveness up front will make her an excellent attacker at the antennas.  Hailey Cowles earned the 2006 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year for her play on the outside, though Golden Gophers head coach Mike Hebert has plans to use her as a libero.

4. USC Trojans

Players Lost:  Kimi Freeburg, 5-8, S; Annie Montgomery, 5-7, DS; Debora Seilhamer, 5-5, L; Alli Dillion, 5-7, DS/S

Incoming Freshmen:  Zoe Garrett, 6-2, MB; Mychaela Miller, 5-10, S; Kimmee Roleder, 6-2, OH; Geena Urango, 5-11, OH/L; Lauren Williams, 6-4, MB

In the mold of multiple All-American April Ross, Kimmee Roleder has all the necessary tools to be the next great Trojan outside hitter.  She's known for her ball control and amazing defense, but her ability to put the ball away in the front or back row will make her a special player.  Zoe Garrett made her commitment to head coach Mick Haley as a sophomore, and he is happy that she honored her verbal pledge, as she was a starter on the U.S. Junior National Team.  She hits one of the best slides in the country and can be a dominating blocker up at the net.  Lauren Williams, the tall and lanky 6-4 middle blocker from Texas, will need to add some weight before she can hang with the big girls, but her quick arm swing will make her a force in the middle in the meanwhile.  Geena Urango will add depth to the crop of outside hitters at Southern California, but her potential will be at the libero spot.

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Players Lost:  Dani Busboom, 5-11, L; Dani Mancuso, 6-2, OH

Incoming Freshmen:  Kayla Banwarth, 5-10, L; Brooke Delano, 6-4, MB; Lindsey Licht, 6-5, RS; Danielle Minch, 6-2, MB/OH; Tara Mueller, 6-0, OH; Jordan Wilberger, 6-1, MB

When Sarah Pavan plays for the ‘Huskers for the last time in 2007, head coach John Cook has recruited a player who has the size and the skills to take over the reins in 6-5 Lindsey Licht.  She is an imposing blocker who will also become a great attacker thanks to her 10-5 approach.  Tara Mueller is an excellent all-around player who will compete for playing time immediately, with her superb ball-handling skills and proficient attacking style.  Brooke Delano is a Nebraska girl who hopes to do her state proud with her excellent blocking skills, and her potential is limitless.  Danielle Minch is a middle blocker who could also see time on the outside, and Kayla Banwarth is an outside hitter who has plans on succeeding Dani Busboom at the libero position.

6. UCLA Bruins

Players Lost:  Katie Carter, 6-3, OH; Laura Kroneberger, 5-8, DS; Colby Lyman, 6-0, RS; Nana Meriwether, 6-1, MB

Incoming Freshmen:  Jaz Machado, 6-0, S; Katie Mills, 6-3, MB; Dicey McGraw, 5-11, OH; Stephanie Nucci, 6-2, S; Julianne Piggott, 6-2, OH/RS

The biggest loss that Andy Banachowski will have to face next season will be the graduation of middle blocker Nana Meriwether, the most feared front-row player in the country this year.  Fortunately for UCLA, he has highly-regarded Katie Mills coming in to compete for a spot in the middle.  Mills has a strong presence up at the net, with great blocking and attacking skills.  Outside hitter Dicey McGraw is a very athletic player who can score with almost every shot in the book, and Julianne Piggott will be an imposing force at the either antenna thanks to her fast arm swing and good size.  Stephanie Nucci has great size and soft hands to do a great job in Westwood, though she'll most likely wait two seasons backing up Nellie Spicer before she'll get her chance to shine on the national scene.

7. Florida Gators

Players Lost:  Rhian Davis, 5-7, DS/L; Stefanie Douglas, 6-2, OH

Incoming Freshmen:  Lauren Bledsoe, 6-2, MB/RS; Erin Fleming, 5-9, DS/L; Callie Rivers, 6-0, OH

Florida head coach Mary Wise has assembled a class that isn't very big, but will be solid in Gainesville for years to come.  Callie Rivers hails from Florida and knows how to win, leading her high school, Orlando (Fla.) Winter Park, to three straight state championships.  A fierce competitor whose intense work ethic will make her a valuable asset in practice and in game situations, Rivers should battle for a starting spot in her sophomore year once Marcie Hampton graduates.  Lauren Bledsoe, teammates with Alix Klineman, will try to take her Mira Costa team to a third straight state title.  A great blocker in the middle, Bledsoe will look to transition to the right side where her athleticism will shut down opposing left side hitters and her bazooka of an arm will score many points in the SEC.

8. Purdue Boilermakers

Players Lost:  Brittany Dildine, 5-9, DS; Lindsay Shondell, 5-5, S; Melanie Ukovich, 6-0, RS

Incoming Freshmen:  Kristen Arthurs, 6-3, MB; Jaclyn Hart, 6-1, S; Mandy Nichols, 6-2, OH; Jessica Ulrich, 5-9, OH

Ever since Dave Shondell came to West Lafayette in 2003, the Purdue volleyball program has steadily improved, and with the recruits he has coming in, the Boilermakers will be competing for a spot in the AVCA Top 25 for years to come.  Kristen Arthurs is a gifted athlete who just came onto the club season just a year ago, but her blocking prowess and volleyball IQ is more than making up for her lack of experience.  Her ceiling is high, and she could be a huge force in the Big 10 in the future.  Jaclyn Hart has the height and physical presence to be a top-notch blocker on the right side, and her setting skills are improving with every repetition she takes.  While she still has a lot to learn as a playmaker, her leadership skills will make her a valuable asset to the Boilermaker coaching staff.  Mandy Nichols, whose father played basketball at Purdue, is an underrated player who should see court time early in her career thanks to her smooth attacking style and excellent ballhandling skills.

9. Illinois Fighting Illini

Players Lost:  Amelia Coleman, 5-10, OH; Meghan Macdonald, 6-1, MB; Stephanie Obermeier, 5-10, S; Beth Vrdsky, 5-5, L

Incoming Freshmen:  Johannah Bangert, 6-1, MB; Laura DeBruler, 5-10, OH; Hillary Haen, 5-10, S; Nicole Kump, 6-1, MB; Abby Nelson, 6-3, MB

The Fighting Illini have been struck with the injury bug in recent years, causing them to drop from their usual status as Big 10 title contender, but head coach Don Hardin has recruited a class that could turn things around.  Hillary Haen is one of the top setters in the country, with pinpoint accuracy to the pins, and her winning attitude is contagious.  She'll be enrolling early at Illinois to get a leg up on the college game.  Laura DeBruler could have a big impact, as her incredible hang time will help her get points on the outside, and her strong passing and defensive skills will help stabilize the backcourt.  A trio of players in Johannah Bangert, Nicole Kump, and Abby Nelson will improve Illinois' middle attack and should provide a competitive atmosphere for court time in the coming years.

10. San Diego Toreros

Players Lost:  Kristen Carlson, 6-2, OH; Christie Dawson, 6-1, MB/OH; Laura Murphy, 6-0, OH;

Incoming Freshmen:  Ashton Basch, 6-1, MB; Kelsi Myers, 5-8, S; Ali Troost, 6-1, RS

With the graduation of All-American candidate Kristen Carlson and can-do-everything Christie Dawson, head coach Jennifer Petrie and associate head coach Brent Hilliard have assembled a class that will keep San Diego near the top of the West Coast Conference for many years to come.  Topping out the class is 6-1 Ali Troost, a lefthander who will be a terror on the right side for years to come because of her aggressive attacking style.  She's also terrific back row player, using her long arms to dig balls and model platform to make the perfect pass.  Ashton Basch is an underrated player whose powerful right arm will score a lot of points for the Toreros and be a nice replacement for Dawson in the middle.  Kelsi Myers, a setter who will back up Jessica Nyrop, rounds out the top recruiting class in the WCC.

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