NCAA volleyball: We had a blast picking 4 amazingly talented fantasy teams

2 months ago
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Mikaela Foecke-Nebraska-Cornhuskers-Huskers-Big Red
Nebraska’s Mikaela Foecke warms up for the 2017 championship match/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

We thought it would be really interesting to put some enthusiastic followers together and pick fantasy NCAA women’s college volleyball teams for 2018.

Plenty of NCAA volleyball fans form fantasy leagues, but this was a one-time deal, just for fun to see who we would pick and why.

The four coaches:

Jenny Hazelwood, the former Mississippi State head coach who is now an analyst for ESPN  and the SEC Network and has her own club in Jackson, Miss., Infinity Volleyball Academy.

JR is a former former player and men’s and women’s coach, never short on an opinion and a close follower of the NCAA game. He’s a mainstay on VolleyTalk but is keeping his cover.

trojansc is another VolleyTalk regular, a former men’s player who has done some coaching and is passionate about following the sport.

— VolleyballMag.com editor Lee Feinswog, who, if nothing else, watches more NCAA volleyball during the season on a daily basis than anyone and knows — to turn a phrase — that offense sells tickets but ball-handling wins championships.

We met in a Google chat and once we came up with an order, off we went. Jenny had first pick, Lee went second, trojansc third and JR fourth

JR then got to make two picks, we reversed order and then Jenny picked twice, and so on until we filled our 12-women rosters.

Lee served as moderator and the trash-talking was civil and fun. The final rosters are listed at the end:

Jenny: Any position requirements?

Lee: No, but I’m gonna try to have 3 OH, 3 MB, 2 S, 1 L, 1 RS and wing it from there.

Jenny: Mikaela Foecke. 6 Rotation OH that has twice been named NCAA Championship MOP.

JR: She’s decent.

Jenny: Sorta.

Stanford’s Kathryn Plummer passes as Morgan Hentz looks on/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Lee: I’ve got Morgan Hentz. I think libero is the most important position and she’s remarkable.

Jenny: I would have named Hentz co-MOP of the championship! Love her.

trojansc: I’ll take Kathryn Plummer. A all-around complete player and reigning (AVCA) NPOY.

Lee: No surprise there. JR on the clock for two picks.

JR: Aren’t you supposed to be an SC fan??? I’m taking Khalia Lanier for my first pick. I think she’s the best OH in the country: ridiculous arm, no real passing/defensive liabilities, and has a wicked serve.

JR: My second pick is going to be  (Kentucky OH) Leah Edmond. Her development so far has been really impressive, and, like Lanier, is developing into a banger who you don’t have to worry about in the back row. Love her fire too.

Lee: Damn, I wanted Edmond.

trojansc: I’m gonna take (Wisconsin MB) Dana Rettke. She might have been the best freshman in the country last year. Her size makes her an imposing force, but she doesn’t seem to let her size limit her athletic ability.

Lee: I’ve got (Illinois S) Jordyn Poulter. I think she’s the best setter in the country and now I’ve got the best libero and the best setter. Not a bad start.This is fun!

Jenny: Ha, she is awesome. But I am not upset that I get to choose Jenna Grey from Stanford. Definitely challenges for the best setter in the country. Runs an amazing offense … does everything well as a setter!

And then I will take Micaya White from Texas. Another 6-Rotation OH that is very terminal and her passing has improved tremendously.

Veronica Jones-Perry-BYU-Brigham Young University-Cougars
Junior Veronica Jones-Perry leads BYU in kills/BYU Photo

Lee: I’m taking Veronica Jones-Perry of BYU. Simply a wrecking crew at outside hitter and primed for another monster season.

trojansc: I want (Samantha) Seliger-Swenson of Minnesota. Sam runs their fast-tempo offense that is spread all over the court and does it so well.

JR: Immediately not challenging everyone’s opinions: this is new for me. Growth.

Jenny: hahahahahahaha

Lee: I appreciate your restraint.

trojansc: Micaya is one of the best blocking outside-hitters in the country. But her offensive #’s dipped a little bit. Nonetheless she is the Big 12 preseason POY

Jenny: I will let her be my OH2 …

Lee: As we wait for JR, Jenny, just think you have a team with Jenna Gray setting Mikaela Foecke and Micaya White. Yikes.

Jenny: I mean ... I would coach that team in a heartbeat!

trojansc: They won’t get past the wall of Plummer/Rettke … sorry Jenny!

Jenny: Unless you are moving Plummer to the opposite, I am in good shape. Rettke is 6-8 … so she is a wall by herself

JR: Just make sure Gray doesn’t set in front of Plummer! I’m going with Mac May and Zana Muno. I think they’re both super underrated players at their positions. I think Muno challenges Hentz for best libero in the P12 more than people might realize because she executes every skill with such control. Her technique is flawless. She also plays all three back row positions for UCLA, and that’s not easy to do. Excellent OOS setter because of all her beach training too. Mac May is a skilled player as well, but was stuck out of position on the right last season as a freshman. I think she’ll move back to the left now, and I think you’ll see a very different player.

trojansc: I think Plummer’s future professionally is actually better slotted there (OPP). But for Stanford, it’s better to keep her on the OH.

Jenny: I had Mac May on my list too. I have UCLA in the Regional for ESPN and I loved watching her play!

trojansc: I’ll take Mary Lake of BYU. A day 1 starter, Lake has a competitive spirit and energy. Anchors the BYU backrow when their block doesn’t get it done!

Lee: I’m up and I’m torn. I have a S, L, OH. 

Jenny: You need another DS

JR: Lol. Jenny’s here to compete, y’all

Jenny: (puts up weird smiley face).

Lee: My pick is OH Allie Barber of Marquette. She’s the real deal and the Big East preseason POY. I know there other bigger-name OHs out there, but she’s my pick.

trojansc: Jenny was right! Now you need a DS for Barber! Lol

JR: I love the idea of bringing attention to great players who don’t play for P3 teams. There are so many out there.

Jenny: OK, I know I want (Florida’s) Rachael Kramer as a middle. My team was kind of short, so I figured I would add a 6’8 player to my roster. Kramer really worked hard to be able to run in front and behind the setter and her time with the US Collegiate National Team is bound to have helped her play at the highest levels.

trojansc: Kramer is a great choice. Her hitting % is off the charts. She completely went off against Nebraska, unfortunately it was in the beginning of the season, not the end.

Lee: I was so impressed with Kramer that first weekend last year and she got better. Can’t wait to see her next week, and, for that matter, all four of those teams, Nebraska, Texas, Florida and Oregon. My first trip to Lincoln.

Jenny: I am going to go with (Stanford’s) Audriana Fitzmorris at OPP. (As a middle) Was 2nd in the PAC12 in attack percentage. And she will put up a monster block! Now my team is taller.

JR: Man, I think she’s going to have an incredible season for Stanford.

Lee: Great pick, but I was hoping you would go for her and leave me Stephanie Samedy, the RS for Minnesota. She’s not as tall as Audriana, but one heck of a young player.

Jenny: That was my dilemma … picking between those two!

trojansc: I’ll take (Baylor OH) Yossiana Pressley. She’s an incredibly athletic player with the ability to score from both pins and the backrow. She lead the Big 12 in points and kills as a freshman last year.

Lee: She’s one of the best-kept secrets in the NCAA. Won’t be after this year. Seriously, I’ve been crossing the names off as we go and there are a ton of remarkable players left. 

Jenny: She is definitely one to watch! Her passing struggled at the USAV Women’s Open tryout, but she was still so terminal attacking that she made one of the Collegiate National Team-Detroit rosters! Thank goodness you didn’t invite anybody else to this fantasy draft!

Lindsey Ruddins-NCAA volleyball-kills per set-Gauchos-UCSB-UC Santa Barbara
Lindsey Ruddins puts up the block/UCSB photo

JR: My next two picks: Lindsey Ruddins from UCSB and Jazz Sweet from Nebraska. Ruddins led the nation in KPS last year as a sophomore and is a one-woman six-rotation wrecking ball for her team. I don’t care what level you’re playing at — nearly 6 kills per set is impressive for anyone. Puts up nice serving and blocking numbers too. I think Sweet is going to be a First-Team All-American this season in her now expanded six-rotation role for Nebraska. She was unstoppable in the tournament and got so much better as a blocker by December.

trojansc: Ruddins did all of that while not even being 100% healthy last year. Nasty server. I’ll stay with the Big West and pick up my opposite — Torrey Van Winden. Torrey has excellent ball control skills for an opposite and has the total array of shots. She will lead Cal Poly again this year.

Lee: I’m a huge Ruddins fan. Did a story on her this past spring. They’re hoping to take some of the load off her this year. 

trojansc: I HOPE NOT. My other fantasy team needs her

Lee: I thought long and hard about Van Winden over Samedy. She’s had a great beach season, too. OK, I’m up:

Jenny: You need a DS

trojansc: yes, for Barber. it’s required. LOL

Lee: Bwahaha. I take Illinois MB Ali Bastianelli. There are some great middles out there, but I like Ali best after Rettke.

Jenny: I am going to take Jenna Rosenthal. She is a beast at the net, with 1.07 blks/set and 2.55 K/s is great for a MB. Marquette MB.

Jenny: I’m going to take Kenzie Maloney next, LIB from Nebraska. (did you want her as your other DS??). She can pass and is all over the court defensively (if a ball can get past my monster blockers)

Lee: No, I’m going to take Oregon MB Ronika Stone. She might be the most athletic middle in the country and is primed for a big-time season. So is Oregon.

Jenny: She was on my list too … and she has an awesome name

trojansc: UGH. that was the 2nd MB i was going to pick

JR: Ulmer had her bouncing around from middle to right last season, plus the 6-2 limited her slide, which is unstoppable. I hope they stick with a 5-1 this season.

trojansc: I’ll take the 6-6 Kirstie Hillyer. Not only has she led Colorado State in blocks, but she is a top-offensive option as well. She was injured part of last year, but is due for a big year this season.

JR: Damn you.

Lee: She was my next MB after Stone. BTW, Ed was at CSU last week and has a feature on them.

trojansc: OK. I got my 2 MB’s, 2 OH, 1 Opp, 1L, 1S. Now to find depth!

Lee: JR’s first pick will give us all 7.

Jenny: Me too. I’m going to have some crazy backups!

JR: Y’all picked your starting 7 first … aaaaaand I picked five pin hitters lol.

Jenny: hahahahaha

trojansc: I think Muno could also see some potential setting, knowing UCLA/Sealy’s history …

JR: Lol maybe even Gates, knowing Sealy.

Jenny: Gates can play MB in front row and set in the back row! Done!

trojansc: Ugh Jenny, that reminded me of my favorite setter from last year. Taylor Hughes of Ohio State. There was a few matches where OSU had to put Hughes as the other Middle blocker, and she set/blocked from middle in the front. Unfortunately she medically retired, Hell of a player.

Jenny: Talk about an athlete if she could do that! It is hard enough setting in the BIG 10, but to block middle and then set? Hate that she is done.

JR: Say what you want about (Ohio State coach Geoff) Carlston, but he throws convention out the window with his lineups and I love it. A lot of it makes no sense (lefty middles, three middles, setter in the middle, etc.), but he doesn’t let norms get in his team’s way of being successful. I respect that.

(I’m still thinking).

Jenny: I am a big fan of thinking outside the box! I will quit distracting you. You need another pin hitter!

JR: Okay, I didn’t want to pick three UCLA players (how did that happen), but I need a middle and I’ll go with the returning All-American: Madeleine Gates.

trojansc: (rolling eyes) the Bruins aren’t even the best team in LA! LOL

JR: Gates attacks well in front of and behind the setter, and blocks well. Big fan of her calm, intense, all-business demeanor too. Sidenote: I love female athletes that don’t smile. Girls are told while growing up, even in sports, to smile or cheer or be nice. I respect the Logan Tom-type of competitors that don’t/aren’t.

JR: My second pick is going to be Deja Harris from SDSU. Nearly 3 kps and 1.2 bps from the middle. Great underrated player.

trojansc: I’m gonna take another pin-hitter to start my depth building: T’Ara Ceasar of Georgia. Outstanding freshman campaign leading a Georgia team that is on the rise. Ceasar can dig serve and block as well, she’s not just a one-trick attacking pony.

Lee: Also among the best athletes playing the game today.

Jenny: She got some great international experience this summer, and with Tom Black as her coach, you know she will keep getting even better!

Lee: I take Madison Lilley, setter from Kentucky. That’s gives me a second setter and she’s simply fabulous.

JR: My team is going without setters, Valpo-style. Only bumpsets and kills

Jenny: DANG … I was going to take her. LOLOLOLOL … Gates will set for you

trojansc: Just rotate and have middle front set. You still split the block. Lol

Lee: You know that story we had two years ago about the Valpo libero-turned-setter (Morgan Longoria) was one of the most well read we’ve ever had. 

JR: Kid I coached in club was one of the OHs on that setter-less Valpo team. It was really fun to watch them make the best out of their situation that year

Jenny: I am going to take (Creighton’s) Taryn Kloth. SUCH a great all around player that is definitely one of the best in the country!

Jenny: And then Morgan Johnson, MB for Texas. She is a dynamic athlete that can own opponents at the net

Lee: I’m going with Purdue OH Sherridan Atkinson, who is so good it’s hard to believe she’s still around this late. Just tells you how many great players there are.

JR: There are still All-Americans left!

Jenny: Exactly why I’m glad nobody else got invited to this! We all look like geniuses!

trojansc: I’m gonna bring the first-part of my double sub option: my second opposite: (Cincinnati’s) Jordan Thompson. Thompson is coming off an injury season but had almost 5kps in 2016. She can terminate any ball, even out of system in the back row!

JR: I’m taking Jonni Parker (PSU) and Nicklin Hames (Neb) for my two setters. I don’t actually think Parker will ever set at PSU, but she’s a do-anything player with the ability to terminate from either pin or from the middle, and is one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet in your life. Can’t wait to see her tear up the B1G. Hames is a no-brainer. Also fiery, intense, and is going to do great things in Lincoln.

Jenny: YOU HAVE SETTERS!!!!! One that won’t set.

JR: Hey I had an OPP slot open too. WORRY ABOUT YOUR OWN TEAM JENNY OMG

Jenny: that’s right, you needed pins

trojansc: alright, I’ll bite on the USC Loyalty. I’ll add Jasmine Gross. Gross puts up great offensive numbers along with being one of the nation’s best blockers. She will have a big year at USC.

JR: You hope…

trojansc: You’ll see!

Lee: I take last year’s NCAA digs leader, Kallie Seimet of Bowling Green. She was a libero as a freshman, played DS as a sophomore, then last year was the MAC POY. So she can be a libero or a DS and my team needs that versatility. 

Jenny: I’m taking Oregon setter August Raskie. She had a great USAV Women’s Open tryout. She locates well, really runs the court and makes good decision.

Then I will take Hali Hillegas from Iowa State. I mean, anybody that earns a libero job at Iowa State is baller and she can pass, defend, set OOS….love her!

trojansc: LOL  @ any libero from Iowa State…. true that!

Lee: I take 6-5 jumping jack Taylor Bannister of LSU, an OPP who appears to have unlimited potential. 

Jenny: OHHHH, love Bannister!

trojansc: I love Bannister too. Incredible potential. Excited to see LSU this year.

trojansc: I’ll pick up my 2nd libero — Courtney Pence from Illinois State. The AVCA honorable-mention All-American was 2nd in the nation in digs/set in 2017. She can play defense in zone 4 or 5 extremely efficiently. She has started every match as a libero at Illinois State, and looks to do so again to complete her career this year.

Lee: That trojansc pick pick gives him 11 and JR, your two complete your roster. 

JR: I’m not taking two bros because all six of my pins are six-ro kids **hair flip** (I’m moving Parker to OPP officially). My final two picks are Sydney Hilley and Lauren Stivrins. Hilley puts up great numbers, and has a great shot to lead Wisconsin to a B1G and possibly even a national title this season with all that returning talent and experience. Stivrins only got better last season, culminating in an outstanding tourney performance, and is going to be a machine for Nebraska as a sophomore.

And there is it: the best team in this draft. Sorry bout it

I can have Hilley hit too

If I wanted

#options

#pins

trojansc: Your team is no match for mine.

Jenny: Jenna Gray is going to lead my team to a fantasy draft championship!

Lee: But I still have Morgan Hentz at libero, Jordyn Poulter setting and Veronica Jones-Perry as my L1. Pretty stout.

trojansc: With my last pick, I’ll take Brynna DeLuzio of Colorado. Such a clean, crisp setter. She wasn’t expected to be in the role she was in, but she well exceeded expectations there. DeLuzio sets with near perfect tempo and location. She can also play libero if necessary.

Lee: Lauren Sanders of Washington as my third middle. Bam!

Lee: Jenny, you pick to end this draft.

Jenny: My sleeper, who isn’t unknown but is making her NCAA debut, is Thayer Hall. She was a standout at the Open tryout and made the top collegiate national team without having played in college yet. She can pass, can hit on both pins and will have a remarkable career at Florida!!

JR: Thayer beat my club team like four times a few seasons ago. Well-aware of her ridiculous talent.

Lee: I’m looking over my master list and it’s amazing how many great players are still on the board. It’s a good statement on the women’s college game.

JR: Jenny and I the only ones brave enough to choose freshmen???

Lee: Except for the freshman, did we take a Penn State player?

JR: Lol. Nope. Not even their returning AA

Lee: This was super fun. I can’t thank you guys enough. I people who follow the sport closely will enjoy it. I know I did.

The final rosters:
Jenny
Mikaela Foecke, OH, Nebraska
Jenna Gray. S, Stanford
Micaya White, OH, Texas
Rachael Kramer, MB, Florida
Audriana Fitzmorris, MB/RS, Stanford
Jenna Rosenthal, MB, Marquette
Kenzie Maloney, L, Nebraska
Taryn Kloth, OH, Creighton
Morgan Johnson, MB, Texas
August Raskie, S, Oregon
Hali Hillegas, L, Iowa State
August Raskie, S, Oregon
Lee
Morgan Hentz, L, Stanford
Jordyn Poulter, S, Illinois
Veronica Jones-Perry, OH, BYU
Allie Barber, OH, Marquette
Stephanie Samedy, RS, Minnesota
Ali Bastianelli, MB, Illinois
Ronika Stone, MB, Oregon
Madison Lilley, S, Kentucky
Sherridan Atkinson, OH, Purdue
Kallie Seimet, L/DS, Bowling Green
Taylor Bannister, RS, LSU
Lauren Sanders, MB, Washington
trojansc
Kathryn Plummer, OH, Stanford
Dana Rettke, MB, Wisconsin
Samantha Seliger-Swenson, S, Minnesota
Mary Lake, L, BYU
Yossiana Pressley, OH, Baylor
Torrey Van Winden, RS, Cal Poly
Kirstie Hillyer, MB, Colorado State
T’ara Ceasar, OH, Georgia
Jordan Thompson, OH/RS, Cincinnati
Jasmine Gross, MB, USC
Courtney Pence, L, Illinois State
Brynna DeLuzio, S, Colorado
JR
Khalia Lanier, OH, USC
Leah Edmond, OH, Kentucky
Mac May, OH, UCLA
Zana Muno, L/DS, UCLA
Lindsey Ruddins, OH, UC Santa Barbara
Jazz Sweet, RS, Nebraska
Madeleine Gates, MB, UCLA
Deja Harris, MB, San Diego State
Jonni Parker, RS/S, Penn State
Nicklin Hames, S, Nebraska
Sydney Hilley, S, Wisconsin
Lauren Stivrins, MB, Nebraska

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