With the 2021 women's volleyball season underway, let's take a look at some of the top returning volleyball starts to watch this season. Yes, there are a lot, so we had to narrow it down some how. This list is comprised of returning players that we think could very well lead their teams, that are top contenders this season, to a national championship.
1. Dana Rettke, Sydney Hilley, and Molly Haggerty — Wisconsin
AKA the three-headed monster over at Wisconsin volleyball. As the No. 1 team in the preseason AVCA poll and 2019 national runner-up, the Wisconsin Badgers are certainly top contenders for the NCAA title this season. They return multiple All-Americans to the roster and will be led by Dana Rettke, Sydney Hilley and Molly Haggerty — a prime example of proven success returning this year. Dana Rettke is the 6-foot-8 Big Ten Female athlete of the year and three-time first team All-American. Sydney Hilley is the 2019 Big Ten Setter of the year and First-Team All-American. Molly Haggerty hammered down 411 kills last season for the Badgers and overcame injuries to get to where she is now. This trio looks unstoppable.
2. Yossiana Pressley — Baylor
Next up, the reigning AVCA National Player of the Year, Baylor’s Yossiana Pressley. We got to see some highlights of Pressley as the Big 12 started play in the fall, and her vertical (see above) will never get old. She led her team to a record-breaking season in 2019 where they reached the national semifinals, and she notched 546 kills..
3. Logan Eggleston — Texas
Keep your eye on Logan Eggleston to be a big-time performer this season. Well, she sort of already is. The Longhorns began play in the fall, finishing 14-0, and Eggleston has been their leading scorer, with 231 kills. The 2019 Second-Team All-American is already averaging 4.62 kills per set on .314 hitting.
4. Madison LIlley, Ali Stumler — Kentucky
Kentucky returns 2019 Second-Team All-American Madison Lilley as the team quarterback and Ali Stumler, the 2019 Second-Team All-American on the receiving end. These two could make some noise as Kentucky continues play in the spring. The SEC also started play in the fall, and Stumler averaged 5.04 points per set. Lilley averaged 12.19 assists per set with 329 total assists in the fall.
5. Lauren Stivrins, Lexi Sun — Nebraska
How about the Huskers? You won’t want to miss Lauren Stivrins in her senior year back on the court. This middle blocker is back to lead this Nebraska team, joined by Lexi Sun, who led the Huskers last season with 3.57 kills per set. Stivrins averaged 2.55 kills and 1.07 blocks per set with a .374 hitting percentage in 2019. The Huskers sported a young group last season, but return everyone and will be pretty well-seasoned with Sun and Stivrins leading the pack.
6. Regan Pittman, Stephanie Samedy — Minnesota
We've got even more 2019 All-Americans returning at Minnesota: Regan Pittman and Stephanie Samedy. Pittman was a 2019 First-Team All-American who led the Gophers in blocks last season, ranking second in the Big Ten. Samedy was the Gophers’ leading scorer who notched 353 kills in 2019. She finished the season as a 2019 AVCA Second-Team All-American. The Gophers lost a few players from last season, so you can expect Samedy and Pittman to be big-time players for them this year. CC McGraw also returns at libero to run the back-court Gopher defense.
7. Dani Drews, Kenzie Koerber — Utah
If you want to talk about dangerous duos though, take a look at Utah, where Dani Drews and Kenzie Koerber come back to inflict some more damage. Koerber finished a 2019 Second-Team All-American and Drews was a 2019 First-Team All-American. Last year, Drews hammered down 643 kills and averaged 5.24 points per set. With that, she set a single-season record and became the first player in program history to eclipse the 600-kill mark. Koerber notched 400 kills. That is a lot of offense. This is a duo that pushed Stanford, the eventual national champions, the most out of anybody in 2019.
8. Kaitlyn Hord, Gabby Blossom — Penn State
Moving on to Penn State, the Nittany Lions bring back Kaitlyn Hord and setter Gabby Blossom, so keep an eye out for the both of them. Hord and Blossom were only sophomores last season, but carried a heavy load. Hord finished as a first-team AVCA All-American in 2019 after leading the Nittany Lions with a .440 hitting percentage and 149 blocks. Blossom was named a third-team All-American and led the team in assists (1,332) and assists/set (11.38.) I can only see these two getting better this year.
9. Kendall Kipp — Stanford
Next up, at Stanford: Kendall Kipp. Kipp debuted as a Cardinal last season. She didn't get a ton of playing time with that legendary senior class, especially toward the end of the season. But, she still notched 166 kills and made the All-Pac-12 freshman team. She could seriously step up this season and be a big-time scorer for the reigning champs.
10. Ella May Powell — Washington
At Washington, Ella May Powell returns at setter. Powell finished 2019 as a third-team All-American and will run the Huskies offense, once again. Powell tallied 1,395 total assists, the eighth most in school history.
Outside the top 10 teams? There’s Thayer Hall, Aiko Jones, Kylie Deberg, Kayla Lund, Magda Jehlarova, Mac May and many more that could go on this list. We could go all day, but those are just a few returning stars to watch out for with more to emerge as the season continues.