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Beth Maiman | NCAA.com | July 16, 2018

8 impact players we'll be watching this upcoming season

With summer here, that means the NCAA women’s volleyball season is just around the corner.

Last year, Nebraska defeated Florida in the national championship match for its second title in three years. But with a new season ahead, who will take the crown in 2018?

Here’s a refresher on some of the top performers from last year who could be key factors for their squads this season. The sport will also feature some new faces, as some highly-regarded incoming freshmen could be making collegiate appearances for the first time.

Here are the eight players who could make an impact this upcoming season: 

Thayer Hall | Outside Hitter | Florida | Freshman

First on our list is an incoming freshman with plenty of accolades heading into college. The freshman from South Carolina was the 2017-18 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. She made the Under Armour High School All-America First Team after recording 638 kills, 361 digs, 43 service aces and 36 blocks in her senior year. Fans should watch to see if the freshman can make an impact for the Gators from the start.

Samantha Seliger-Swenson | Setter | Minnesota | Senior

Seliger-Swenson currently leads active players in career assists with 4,416. Last season, she ranked sixth in total assists, recording 1,441, and was second overall in per set with 12.21. The senior has a crop of offensive talent playing with her this season, so we'll see her career assists number grow even more. Minnesota finished third in the Big Ten last season and was knocked out of the NCAA tournament by USC in the third round. With a talented group, the Gophers will be looking to make a statement in conference play, and they have the crew to do just that.

Ali Bastianelli | Middle Blocker | Illinois | Senior

Bastianelli was second in the country in blocks last season, recording 199 for the Fighting Illini. She ranked fourth in the country in blocks per set last season and currently leads all active players with 567 career blocks. Fans can appreciate Bastianelli for her defensive game and solid play since the start of her collegiate career. 

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Kathryn Plummer | Stanford | Outside Hitter/Setter | Junior

Plummer came to Stanford highly regarded and won AVCA Player of the Year last year after picking up Freshman of the Year honors the prior season. With her talent and skill, it’s undeniable that Plummer is a huge impact for the Cardinal. Last season, Plummer recorded 555 kills, averaging 4.66 a set. Stanford made it all the way to the semifinals in last year’s tournament before being knocked out by Florida. The year prior, the Cardinal took home the hardware. We have to think that Plummer will be motivated to taste victory like that again.

Asjia O’Neal | Middle Blocker | Texas | Freshman

O’Neal is a name you may hear this upcoming season as she begins her collegiate career. The 6-3 Texas native could play a major role with the Longhorns, who lost a core group of seniors from last season. One of those seniors was middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu, the Big 12 Player of the Year in 2017. Maybe O’Neal can follow in her footsteps?

Camryn Tastad | Libero | Oregon | Freshman

Another freshman who could make an instant impact is Tastad. Her skills have the potential to be a difference for the Ducks on defense. The incoming freshman was named a First-Team Under Armour All-American after recording 479 digs and more than 1,000 saves in her high school career. "Cam will be a fan favorite from day one. She is the best floor defender in the country and constantly makes plays that make you question, 'how did she do that?,” said Oregon head coach Matt Ulmer. “[She] is relentless, the ultimate go-getter, and will not be denied. She runs the show on defense and is a true floor general. Cam has attitude, swagger, and confidence for days and I can't wait to work with her."

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Khalia Lanier | Outside Hitter | USC | Junior

Lanier was a key component to the Trojans’ success last season. USC enters the year without four contributing seniors from last season’s squad that made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Lanier tallied 511 kills and 282 digs last season and figures to be a leader this season. Fans should expect her numbers to go up after the Trojans graduated their second and third-most productive hitters. 

Dana Rettke | Middle Blocker | Wisconsin | Sophomore

In a tough and talented Big Ten conference, look for the Badgers to challenge fellow volleyball powerhouses like Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota. Last season, Rettke took home AVCA Freshman of the Year honors with multiple Big Ten Player of the Week awards as well. With a year of college play under her belt, look for Rettke to be a key factor once again for Wisconsin this season. In 32 matches, she tallied 386 kills and was third in the nation in hitting percentage at .443.