The 2021 national championship and a year full of two incredible volleyball seasons are coming to an end. But even with two champions crowned in the same calendar year, we’re not quite ready to take a break to talk about it just yet.
We have very, very little information to provide in any respect. Normally, seniors graduate and you know who’s coming back for next season, but with the extra year of COVID-19 eligibility given to each student-athlete, there are players who could come back for the 2022 season. again, we have little to no information on this unless the player or team announces a comeback.
On top of that, there are already players on the Transfer Portal that we are still waiting for news on, and there is little information about incoming freshman classes.
So that being said, when I tell you this is a MUCH too early Power 10 ranking … I mean very early in any way I can. These might change every day, but let’s have fun in this moment.
At # 1, I have the 2021 national runner-up. After a phenomenal season turnaround and the addition of three freshmen in the starting rotation, this team reached the title game and pushed a excellent Wisconsin team in five sets. These freshmen are names we’ll hear for years to come. The Huskers lose Lauren Stivrins and Lexi Sun, who played their final seasons as Huskers. Stivrins was the only one to play the championship game. There are two players we’re not sure about… Kayla Caffey and Nicklin Hames. These two have played in their senior seasons this year and are expected to make the decision to return for their fifth season. But even without knowing Caffey and Hames, this is a young core. Their top scorer Madi Kubik, Lindsay Krause, Ally Batenhorst and AVCA National Rookie of the Year, Lexi Rodriguez, will be back. Also, given that they’ve recruited one of the best recruiting classes for this year, I’m guessing they’ll do it for 2022 as well. So there’s the # 1 team in the country very early on.
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At No.2 I have the Louisville Cardinals – the No.1 seed of the 2021 tournament and the team that went undefeated until a five-set semi-final loss to future National Champions. Even Nebraska head coach John Cook has said this Louisville team is the toughest opponent they have faced all season. The Cards will lose Anna Stevenson and Tori Dilfer, their first two All-Americans, which is indeed a very big loss. But, they fire almost everyone, including Amaya Tillman, Aiko Jones, Anna DeBeer, and Elena Scott. Claire Chaussée is questionable. But anyway, when you look at the talent coming back from now on, and with Dani Busboom Kelly as the head coach, they still look pretty good.
Texas were a team many expected to return to the national title game. Their season was cut short by a loss to Nebraska in the regional final. But again, they had to bring back almost their entire core aside from Brionne Butler and Sydney Petersen. Even if they lose a player on the transfer portal, they send one of the best players in the country back to Logan Eggleston. They’ll also be returning Asjia O’Neal, Jhenna Gabriel, Melanie Parra, Molly Phillips and Naloni Iosia for sure. They also officially announced that Zoe Fleck, two-time UCLA Pac-12 Libero of the Year, will be joining their team.
At # 4, I have the reigning national champions Wisconsin. The Badgers come off their first title after three years in the domestic semifinals and a second time in three years in the championship game. As we all know this team is going to lose a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean AVCA National Player of the Year and five-time All American First Team Dana Rettke, First Team All American setter Sydney Hilley, Grace Loberg and Lauren Barnes. These players have led this team to a national championship, and this team will have huge shoes to fill. So why aren’t they even less than four? Well if you watched the Championship game you are missing a few other names. Anna Smrek won the tournament MVP title in freshman. She came this season after Danielle Hart was injured and led the team to a title. Jade Demps was the second top scorer of the title game, and she returns, Devyn Robinson, another of their star hitters, and Julia Orzol, the Polish rookie who made a big difference this year. So a lot of young players are coming back and have serious experience. On top of that, IF Danielle Hart is coming back for another season, you still have two great middle blockers, and I guess a solid incoming class.
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5. State of Ohio
Watch the Ohio State Buckeyes soar in my Power 10 rankings way too early for next season. And by big jump, I mean where they ended the 2021 season from. The Buckeyes were knocked out by Georgia Tech in the tournament and finished just outside the top 10 at No. 11. However, despite a comeback questionable for Mia Grunze, this team comes down to it all. Emily Londot, Rylee Rader, Gabby Gonzales, Kylie Murr and Mac Podraza. They are therefore my first team No.5.
At number 6, I got the Minnesota Gophers. And the sad day has come … Stephanie Samedy played her last game as Gopher. Quite the immaculate career of Samedy, and one of the best out there. The Gophers will lose Samedy and Airi Miyabe next season. CC McGraw is currently on the Spring 2021 roster, but it’s unclear if she’ll return for the 2022 regular season for sure. But, they come to No.6 with the return of Jenna Wenaas, Taylor Landfair, Melanie Shaffmaster and Ellie Husemann.
7. Georgia Tech
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets come in at No.6. They will suffer a pretty big loss from Mariana Brambilla, who had huge performances in the NCAA tournament. However, they will return Julia Bergmann, their All-American outside hitter. Bianca Bertolino has averaged 2.55 wins per set this season behind Brambilla and Bergmann in her debut season, and I expect her to play an even bigger role next year.
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The Boilermakers had a whole 2021 season. They even beat National Champion Wisconsin Badgers twice in the regular season. They drop to No.7 with the loss of Grace Cleveland, who announced that she won’t be returning for another season on her personal instagram, Caitlyn Newton, their top scorer, Hayley Bush, their passer, and Jenna Otec, the star. libero. The Boilermakers will bring back Emma Ellis, Taylor Trammell and Raven Colvin, which is why they remain in the top 10.
The Panthers ended the 2021 season at No.4 after making history and reaching the domestic semi-finals. But I had to drop them quite far to No.9 with how much they’ll lose next year. Pitt will lose Kayla Lund. Chinaza Ndee, Kylee Levers and their biggest contributor, Leketor Member-Meneh. They could also lose Serena Gray, Sabrina Starks and Jordan Lockwood. That’s almost all of their training and all of their points. They go to first year Rachel Fairbanks who made a big effort in the tournament, Chiamaka Nwokolo and Valeria Vazquez Gomez.
The Huskies had the potential to defeat Texas in the tournament when they won two sets to zero before the Longhorns triggered a huge comeback. They finished at No. 12 in the latest AVCA poll. They are sure to lose Samantha Drechsel next season, which is a good part of their offense. Their top scorer Claire Hoffman has already played for four years with the Huskies, but has the option of returning for a fifth. If she were to come back, she would join Ella May Powell and Madi Endsley next season, which would make them my No.10 team. Otherwise, I could replace that place with Kentucky, which will bring back Madi Skinner, Azhani Tealer and Emma Grome, but will lose Alli Stumler.
A few teams that didn’t do my Power 10 too soon are Baylor and BYU. BYU loses Kenzie Koerber, Kennedy Eschenberg and Taylen Ballard-Nixon and Baylor loses Yossiana Pressley, Avery Skinner, Marieke Van der Mark and Hannah Sedwick.