The NCAA Volleyball season kicks off this weekend with some exciting match ups, new faces in big places, and must-follow story lines. Speaking of new faces, there are a TON of freshmen we’re itching to make their college debut. The athletes on this list have had some impressive accolades, USA volleyball experience, and some big wins under their belt.
We’re starting our list with Nebraska OH, Harper Murray. The 2022-2023 National GatoradePlayer of the Year joined the Huskers early in January for beach season and to get acclimated to the team. Murray has been a part of multiple USA National Teams, earning gold and bronze medals and was named “Best Spiker” at the 2022 Pan Am Cup. She also played in the Under Armour All-American match before moving to Lincoln. The 2022 Miss Michigan was the #1recruit in the nation, for great reason. There is some depth at the pin for the Huskers, but we hope to get to see the high flier this fall.
Stanford’s Julia Blyashov is one of the most decorated prep players in this class. Coming off of an 18 Open National Championship with Wave, Blyashov can make a splash in the Pac 12. Not only is she the CIF MVP, a 4x All-American, and 2022 California Gatorade Player of the Year, she also was a captain for Team USA. This summer she won a gold medal in Puerto Rico with the U19 National Team. Julia is no stranger to the spotlight being named the 2022 MaxPrepsPlayer of the Year, and 2022-23 Just Women’s Sports Player of the Year. This year’s Cardinal team brings back a lot of veterans, but whether she redshirts or plays, Blyashov can make an impact early.
Olivia Babcock was a FORCE at the Under Armour All-American match in January. ThePittsburgh opposite will fit right in with her competitiveness. She was an AVCA andvolleyballmag.com 1st Team All-American this past year as a consensus top 50 recruit. She was a member of the U19 National Team who won gold this summer putting up impressive numbers.Pitt’s system could allow Babcock to contribute heavily this fall.
The Big 12 newcomers, BYU, get a fresh face in Claire Little. Despite her last name, she playsBIG. Little was named the Freshman Player of the Year by Prep Volleyball and has lived up to the hype. The overall #24 recruit trained with Team USA this summer on the U21 training team.The Cougars could use Little a lot this fall, but the Big 12 could be a whole new test for thisprogram. We’re excited for this new era for BYU and to see Little light it up.
We would be mistaken if we didn’t mention Chloe Chicoine. Originally gave her word to the Nittany Lions, she chose to be a Boilermaker when there was a coaching change at PSU. Shondell and crew couldn’t be more excited to keep Chloe in state. The #1 recruit by PrepVolleyball competes like no other. Her energy was infectious at the Under Armour All-American match- Holloway will feed off of it this fall. Chicoine, the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year, isthe highest ranked recruit Purdue has ever had. She was named “Best Spiker” at the 2022 PanAm Games and has won various medals with USA Volleyball National Teams.
Another Husker we are on the look out for is setter, Bergen Reilly. The Sioux Falls native is one of the best prep players to come out of South Dakota. Reilly is the #4 overall recruit and #1 setter in the 2023 class. She played with Murray on the U19 and U18 USA teams, was named “BestSetter” and MVP at the 2022 PanAm Cup. Reilly was also called up to the USA Senior NationalTeam in 2022 for the Pan Am Final 6, an extremely impressive honor for a high school athlete.The honors rolled in for Bergen- 3x South Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year, 4x first teamAll-State, Under Armour All-American...you name it, she got it. She also joined the Huskers early to adjust and learn the ropes- very important for a young setter.
Staying in the Big Ten next with Michigan State’s Cameron Berger. The setter from Minnesota was originally committed to Illinois State. But she followed coach Leah Johnson to East Lansing to play in the green and white. Cameron led her club team, Vital, to a 5th place finish in 18 Open in 2022. Berger was named to the AVCA All-Region and AVCA All-American 2nd Team. TheMinnesota native was a top 100 recruit (PrepDig) and an All-State selection in 2021 and 2022.
Ella Swindle has the potential to have a lot of fun setting the returning National Champs. Texas got the 2021-22 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year, Under Armour All-American, and AVCAFirst Team All-American. Swindle has plenty of USA Volleyball experience too- 2020 and 2021Youth National Team, and most recently the U21 National Training Team. She has many weapons at her disposal this year and we’ll be watching to see if she gets the nod.
UCLA is in a new era with Alfee Reft as Head Coach. He has a talented, young setter in AshleyMullen. Mullen has been on campus since the spring to get acclimated, like many others on this list. The #4 setter in the country, #26 overall by PrepVolleyball, had some of the best setter training in the country at Dynasty. Her showing at the Under Armour All-American game was impressive too. We’ll be excited to watch her grow as a Bruin.
Kate Hansen, a top middle from the state of Texas, calls Lubbock home. Hansen has been highly respected since early in her high school career being named to the Prep VolleyballFROSH 59, a list that names the best varsity playing freshman in the country. Since then, she has been a multiple time All-State selection, National Champion, and National Runner-Up withTAV.
The Terps have been hot in the middle the past few years leading the NCAA in blocking numbers. Eva Rohrbach, the #5 middle recruit in the nation, could slide in there this fall to add to the strong middle game. Highly sought after by Power 5 programs, she ultimately chose Maryland for the academics, coaching staff, and overall atmosphere. She was teammates with Blyashov at Wave, and also an 18 Open All-Tournament Team selection.
The SEC is known for having some of the most explosive, athletic middles and Kentucky is no stranger to that. Brooke Bultema was an Under Armour All- American, a state champion in Ohio, and a top 50 recruit. She is explosive on the slide and is QUICK in transition- works well for that fast Wildcat offense. Big Blue Nation will love what Bultema can bring.
Bultema’s Ohio counterpart, Eloise Brandewie, is a stud. She stayed close to home to play for the Buckeyes. Brandewie was named the 2022-23 Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year and wasthe #3 recruit in Ohio according to Prep Dig. She was also an Under Armour All-American, aPrep Volleyball All-American, and Team USA bronze medalist. Brandewie fits in perfectly atOhio State and with some departures, she could make an immediate impact.
Clemson has a gem in Kate Simington. She is a physical blocker and has gotten better each year. The Minnesota native had a decorated prep career with multiple All-State team selections,VolleyballMag.com All-Tournament team, and a 17 Open Runner-Up finish.
Liberos are tough to navigate from a prep career but Gigi Navarrete is one we’re watching this fall. The Northwestern Wildcat isn’t far from home. She was the #2 recruit in Illinois and #51overall recruit, according the Prep Volleyball. Navarrete was an AVCA All- American and a 17Open National Champion. The Big Ten can be brutal as a back row player, but Gigi can be an anchor back there for Northwestern.