Purdue Volleyball announced today the signing of three incoming freshmen, Lexi Dorn, Natalie Haben, and Olivia Van Zelst. To read more about the players, check out the team's official release here.
Now that you know a bit more about the players, I'll give you a better picture of what the team will look like next year. The 2015 team has 16 players, with 5 seniors leaving the team at the end of this year. Of those seniors, two are definite starters (Annie Drews and Amanda Neill), and two more see significant playing time each match (Sam Epenesa and Kate Workman). The positional breakdown of this years roster is as follows (asterisks denote players with multiple positions):
Setters: Ashley Evans (redshirt sophomore), *Lydia Dimke (sophomore)
Outside Hitters: Sam Epenesa (senior), Azariah Stahl (sophomore), Alexa Smith (freshman), *Lydia Dimke (sophomore)
Opposites: Annie Drews (senior), *Blake Mohler (freshman, redshirting this year), *Lydia Dimke (sophomore)
Middle Blockers: Kaisley Fisher (redshirt senior), Faye Adelaja (redshirt junior), Danielle Cuttino (sophomore), Shavona Cuttino (freshman, redshirting this year), *Blake Mohler (freshman, redshirting this year)
Defensive Specialists: Amanda Neill (senior), Kate Workman (senior), Linnea Rohrsen (sophomore), Carissa Damler (redshirt freshman), Brooke Peters (freshman)
Lydia Dimke has transitioned to an outside hitter role since the early Big Ten season, partially due to the addition of a setter as a practice player to give the scout team a setter, and also due to her good attacking vision, speed and range. With the addition of Lexi Dorn, another setter, it's almost certain that Dimke will remain a hitter next year, especially considering Sam Epenesa's graduation.
Two defensive players will graduate this year, Kate Workman and Amanda Neill, but will be replaced by freshmen Natalie Haben and Olivia Van Zelst. Van Zelst, despite being listed as an outside hitter, is undersized at 5'10" and will be a defensive player for Purdue. Haben is the most highly ranked of the incoming freshmen, listed at 56 among Prep Volleyball's Senior Aces.
With those points in mind, here's the position breakdown for next year's team, barring late signings, which are entirely possible:
Setters: Ashley Evans (redshirt junior), *Lydia Dimke (junior), Lexi Dorn (freshman)
Outside Hitters: Azariah Stahl (junior), *Lydia Dimke (junior), Alexa Smith (sophomore)
Opposites: *Lydia Dimke (junior), *Blake Mohler (redshirt freshman)
Middle Blockers: Faye Adelaja (redshirt senior), Danielle Cuttino (junior), Shavona Cuttino (redshirt freshman), *Blake Mohler (redshirt freshman)
Defensive Specialists: Linnea Rohrsen (junior), Carissa Damler (redshirt sophomore), Brooke Peters (sophomore), Natalie Haben (freshman), Olivia Van Zelst (freshman)
This breakdown gives a decent idea at a starting lineup, but produces a few questions. Ashley Evans will certainly be the starting setter after starting this whole season. Faye Adelaja and Danielle Cuttino will start at middle, as they have this season. Annie Drews' exit leaves a huge hole on the right side, which could be filled by Dimke, or redshirt freshman Blake Mohler. Another possibility is having both Evans and Dimke set and play opposite in a 6-2, as both are capable setters and hitters. Outside hitters in that case would be Azariah Stahl and Alexa Smith, but Dimke is capable on either pin in a 5-1. As far as which defensive player will fill the libero spot, my prediction is for Linnea Rohrsen, but that's completely up in the air.
The three freshmen, while important for adding depth and future talent, likely won't make a very immediate impact on next year's roster, but will gain lots of experience in the practice gym. Also, keep your eyes out for later announcements of late signees, as they can and do happen every year.
If any of this technical volleyball jargon is confusing, I'll happily answer questions in the comments. Follow the team on Facebook and Twitter as they finish this Big Ten season and hopefully enter the NCAA tournament in a few weeks.