All of you avid H&R readers obviously already know about Purdue Volleyball's incoming recruiting class from this lovely article (Haven't read it? You should), but we now know that that recruiting class has the nice, single-digit label of 7th in the nation.
The incoming three-headed monster includes outside hitter Alexa Smith (Monument, Colorado), middle blocker/opposite Blake Mohler (Ocean Springs, Mississippi), and defensive specialist Brooke Peters (Avon, Indiana). All three earned all kinds of awards recognizing their outstanding high school playing careers.
Smith, a 6-0 outside hitter, was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Colorado, as well as the High School Player of the Year by both MaxPreps and Volleyball Magazine. While leading her high school team to two Class 4A state titles, she was coincidentally listed 7th among Prep Volleyball's Senior Aces, and was named a first team Under Armour High School All-American. Smith's many high school awards accompanied extensive USA Volleyball experience. She was a teammate of current Boiler Danielle Cuttino on the USAV Junior National Team, which won gold at the NORCECA (North America region) Continental U20 Championships in 2014, and was also a member of the 2012 and 2013 Youth National Team.
As far as how she'll fit on the Boilermaker squad come August, Smith possesses all the all-around skills of an outside hitter that will enable her to be a consistent six-rotation player, something every team needs. She fits in well in serve receive schemes, plays middle back and off-blocker defense and can block, apply service pressure, and be efficient attacking the ball. Her title of high school player of the year is definitely warranted by her skill set and tremendous volleyball IQ and experience, rather than by raw athleticism. I would normally expect her to make an immediate impact on the roster, having played at a high level for so long, but she unfortunately tore her labrum and had surgery in April, which will limit her arm swing likely until September.
Mohler, a 6-2 middle blocker also capable on the right side, was named a second team Under Armour High School All-American and the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Mississippi. She was named the AVCA High School Player of the Week once and was listed as the 17th Prep Volleyball Senior Ace. She owns her high school's records in kills and solo blocks, as well as the high jump record for the track team.
Mohler is unlike Smith in that she didn't start playing volleyball seriously until midway through high school, but had the measurable athleticism and physicality to learn the game and excel in just a few years. She'll surely be a part of the middle blocker competition at Purdue in August, but also is capable on the right side, which will be a welcome supplement to senior Annie Drews, the only other true opposite on the roster. Mohler has a huge athletic upside that the coaches hope they can take advantage of when she joins Purdue's program.
Peters, a 5-9 libero/defensive specialist, forewent her last semester of high school to enroll at Purdue in January and join the team for spring workouts and practices. She was named to the Under Armour High School All-American third team and was in the top 50 of Prep Volleyball's Senior Aces. She holds Avon High School's all time records in digs, matches played and sets played, and led her team to state championships in 2012 and 2013.
Peters made an impact right away in the spring, showing off her excellent ball control skill in serve receive and defense, as well as an aggressive and consistent float serve that will surely find her playing time. While Purdue has more than enough defensive players on the roster, I doubt Peters will redshirt this year due to her skill and competitiveness.
While the number 7 sounds really nice for a recruiting class ranking, let's not forget that Purdue plays in the toughest conference in NCAA volleyball. Also among the top 10 in recruiting class rankings are Big Ten foes Illinois at #1, Wisconsin at #3, and Nebraska at #5. These freshmen will have to shoulder some high expectations to help Purdue succeed in such a stacked league.
I love this summary by John Tawa of Prep Volleyball about our class:
"The Boilermaker class includes three top 50 Senior Aces and is highlighted by Smith, the MaxPreps and Volleyball Magazine High School Player of the Year. Smith is a point scorer who controls the ball in all facets of the game. The silky-smooth outside hitter will bring a low-error presence to the Boilers. Mohler, the 2014 Mississippi Gatorade POY is a physical middle attacker with a bazooka for a right arm. Still sharpening her tools of the trade, Mohler may play some on the right side as well. Peters arrived in West Lafayette in January and immediately began flexing her passing and defensive muscles. A fierce competitor, Peters also serves bullets. Peters' no-nonsense approach is what the doctor ordered in the power packed Big Ten Conference."
Purdue Volleyball's official article about the class ranking can be found here, and be sure to check out their fall schedule while you're there.