Nearly every first-, second- or third-team All-American comes from a top 25 program, but, of course, there is supreme talent scattered throughout the college volleyball landscape.
From the top of statistical leaderboards in the NCAA and in their respective conferences, here are 13 players on teams not in the AVCA coaches top 25 after four weeks of play that have excelled so far this season and should earn plenty of recognition at season’s end.
The list is in alphabetical order by school and stats reflect games played through Sept. 17.
RELATED: AVCA top 25 poll analysis
Kendra Dahlke — Arizona
The Arizona Wildcats have already matched last season’s win total at 11-1 to start the year, and Kendra Dahlke has quietly been one of the best players in the country through that stretch. The senior outside hitter ranks third in the country in kills per set (5.40), fourth in points per set (5.66) and attacks per set (13.25), ninth in total kills (216) and 15th in total points. All of those are tops in the Pac 12.
Kendra Dahlke out of the back row AGAIN to cap off set 3⃣! pic.twitter.com/PtwrBbBfYb— Arizona Volleyball (@ArizonaVBall) September 15, 2018
Jordan Thompson — Cincinnati
Recognized as the most recent AVCA Player of the Week, Jordan Thompson is one of the most feared hitters in the country. Thompson is the nation’s leader in three major statistical categories, with an astonishing 6.24 kills per set, 318 total kills and 350 total points. Oh, and the senior outside hitter is hitting .327 with 704 total attacks, which also leads the country. Thompson should be a frontrunner for AAC Player of the Year with a strong performance in conference play.
Ivone Martinez — Florida Atlantic
After finishing as the nation’s leader in assists per set last season, Ivone Martinez is ranked second in the category this season at 12.58 and ranks second on her team in digs. Martinez totaled nine double-doubles and has recorded three this season already. The senior from Mexico should finish in the top three in program history in total assists.
For the second straight week, Ivone Martinez was named Conference USA Setter of the Week. https://t.co/TEkY48paw9— #WinningInParadise (@FAUAthletics) September 10, 2018
Taylor Louis — Iowa
The Iowa Hawkeyes were just on the outside looking into the NCAA tournament last season. So far, outside hitter Taylor Louis has emerged as a leading force on the campaign of the program’s first NCAA tournament bid since 1994. Louis leads the Big Ten kills per set (4.41) and is second in total kills (181) behind Maryland’s Erika Pritchard, who could also be on this list. Louis leads the Hawkeyes in points per set (4.77) and is hitting a solid .312.
Jasmine Bennett — Louisville
The Louisville Cardinals are likely the best team to challenge No. 9 Pittsburgh for the ACC championship, and middle blocker Jasmine Bennett has proven to be a matchup nightmare for some of the top teams in the country. Against Florida earlier this season, Bennett had 13 kills on a .722 hitting percentage to go along with six blocks. Bennett’s .467 hitting percentage ranks third in the country and she’s second on the team in kills (97) despite having 150 less attempts than Melanie McHenry, who leads the Cardinals attack.
Tess Reid — Loyola Marymount
After sharing time at setter last season, the junior setter Tess Reid leads the NCAA with 12.98 assists per set and has recorded five games with at least 50 assists and five double-doubles. She ranks second on the team in digs and was named WCC player of the week for Sept. 3-9 after averaging 13.50 assist per set in three games.
Taylor Bannister — LSU
Bannister was an AVCA All-American honorable mention as a freshman last season for the Tigers. As a sophomore, she’s the proven go-to hitter in Baton Rouge. The 6-foot-5 outside hitter ranks 11th in the country in kills per set (4.60) and 12th in points per set (5.10), which are best in the SEC. LSU finished 5-6 in nonconference play, but Bannister is good enough to lead the Tigers in challenging Florida and Kentucky atop the conference.
Naya Gros — Michigan State
Since dropping its first game of the season, the Spartans have won 12 straight and are knocking on the door of the top 25, thanks in large part to freshman middle blocker Naya Gros. The 6-foot-3 former high-school All-American ranks second in the country in hitting percentage (.481) with just 22 errors on 185 attacks. She also leads the team with 1.40 blocks per set, which ranks 25th in the nation.
The Spartans won the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational with a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan in the finale. pic.twitter.com/HizUHOlhTr— MSU Volleyball (@MichStVB) September 16, 2018
Emily Stroup — Ole Miss
Stroup is not only a reliable hitter for the Rebels, but a stout defender as well. Coming off a season with 4.75 kills per set and 12 double-doubles, the junior outside hitter ranks 13th in the country in kills per set (4.57) and second behind Thompson with 245 total kills. So far this season, Stroup has notched eight double-doubles and five games with at least 20 kills.
Cali Thompson — Portland
Outside hitter Reghan Pukis and middle blocker Shayla Hoeft have led the Pilots to a surprising 12-0 start, but junior setter Cali Thompson has been the catalyst for Portland in the nonconference. Thompson is ninth in the nation with 11.62 assists per set, trailing only Reid for the conference lead. She had a career-high 67 assists against Wyoming this season and will be a major factor if the upstart Pilots can continue their good fortune in WCC play.
élan McCall — TCU
The second freshman on this list, élan McCall has become the Horned Frogs top hitter and might be a favorite for Big 12 freshman of the year and candidate for national freshman of the year. Through 11 games, McCall ranks fifth in the nation in points per set (5.64) and sixth in kills per set (5.05), which rank first and second, respectively, in the Big 12. McCall notched a high of 31 kills in four sets against Colorado State and already has five double-doubles.
Lindsey Ruddins — UC Santa Barbara
After two straight years of being named an AVCA All-American honorable mention, Lindsey Ruddins is hardly a newcomer on the national scene. She led the NCAA last year with 5.84 kills per set and ranks second this year with 5.59. She’s also second in the nation with 6.32 points per set and tied for fourth in total kills (229). When she and Thompson squared off in the first game of the year, the two combined for 48 kills.
🔥FINAL: UCSB 3, Texas Tech 1🔥— UCSB W Volleyball (@UCSB_Volleyball) September 8, 2018
🏐 More borderline ridiculous stat lines from last weeks Big West Athletes of the Week power the Gauchos to a great win in home opener 👏🙌
Ruddins: 33k-16d-4blk-3sa - 2nd most kills in UCSB rally scoring history
Petrachi: 24d pic.twitter.com/yeiHYD5een
Mariena Hayden — UNLV
The back-to-back Mountain West offensive player of the week, Mariena Hayden has proved to be difficult to stop anywhere on the floor for the Rebels. Hayden leads her team in kills, points, digs and service aces. She leads the nation in service aces per set (1.16), third in points per set (5.94) and 15th in kills per set (4.56) while hitting .304 on the outside.