Every year, we take a look at the top offensive players we can expect to see shining on the big stage for the upcoming DI women's volleyball season. Well, we are doing it again, and this year is even more special, considering we have super seniors returning for their fifth seasons and utilizing that extra year of eligibility.
We had to narrow it down somehow, so there are no setters included (we will do a separate piece for the quarterbacks) — and we tried to keep it to one player per team. Here are the 16 top offensive players to watch out for in the 2021 season.
Dana Rettke — Wisconsin
At this point, I am sure almost everyone reading this article knows who Dana Rettke is. If you don't, well she is a 6-foot-8 middle blocker who led the Badgers to the past two national semifinals. She is ALREADY a four-time first team AVCA All-American, she won Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year and is coming back for a fifth year and most likely a few more awards. The 2017 AVCA National Freshman of the Year has lived up to the hype. Rettke typically leads Wisconsin in scoring as a middle blocker. She is a huge threat at the net as well. Rettke averaged 1.5 blocks per set last season and led her team with 84 blocks.
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Logan Eggleston — Texas
At Texas we’ve got Logan Eggleston, who averaged 4.63 kills per set last season for the team that played for a national title and is preseason No. 1. The AVCA first-team All-American is really a special athlete, she is aggressive and successful at the service line — and is back for her senior season. The Big 12 Conference Player of the Year notched 468 kills last season that ranked third in the NCAA and her 4.63 kills per set ranked 10th. She also led Texas with 48 service aces.
Stephanie Samedy — Minnesota
Stephanie Samedy is another AVCA first team All-American and is the Big Ten Player of the Year. Last season she was the first Gopher since 2011 to post 20 kills and 20 digs in a match and had 20-plus kills in FIVE matches. Not only that, but she grew into a huge leader on the court that was a pleasure to watch. Get ready for another round of that.
Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner — Baylor
We made a slightly strict guideline for this piece to pick just one player per team (or else the list would have been a mile long). But we made one small exception for Baylor considering the Bears return the 2019 National Player of the Year, Yossiana Pressley, and just got a big-time transfer of Avery Skinner. Skinner is a standout outside hitter from Kentucky’s national championship team. We are now talking a duo of 4.69 kills per set and 3.81 kills per set, respectively.
Alli Stumler — Kentucky
Kentucky lost Skinner but they do have Alli Stumler, the Wildcats' leading scorer from last year. Stumler was a huge part of that national championship and led the Wildcats with 4.39 kills per set last season. The first-team AVCA All American gathered quite the lineup of accolades: National Champion, All-Tournament Team, All-SEC, three-time SEC Offensive Player of the Week and more.
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Samantha Drechsel — Washington
Next, Washington’s Samantha Drechsel. A 6-rotation hitter that led Washington’s offense all the way to the national semifinals last season. The AVCA first-team All American has gotten better for the Huskies every single season. Drechsel led her team with a career-high 3.52 kills per set while hitting a career-best .280, ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in points per set with 4.31, the highest among all opposites, and was tied for team lead in aces with 33.
Lauren Stivrins — Nebraska
At Nebraska, Lauren Stivrins is back. You heard that right: Stivrins is back! Stivrins gave us the longest wait to announce that she would be back for another go-round, but she is back nonetheless to join Nicklin Hames, Lexi Sun and probably a great incoming class. Stivrins is a high-scoring middle blocker and the leader of this Huskers team. She was sidelined toward the end of the season in the spring, but should be back and healthy, so get ready for another year of the Stivrins slide.
T'Ara Ceasar — Florida
Florida returns its second-team AVCA All American T’ara Ceasar. Last season she ranked first on the team in kills (340), points (391.0) and service aces (28), second on the team in digs (232) and sixth on the team in blocks (38). She also notched double-figure kills in 20 of the 25 matches. Ceasar came to Florida after her freshman season at Georgia, one where she led all freshman in points per set in all conferences. Now she is making her mark at Florida alongside Thayer Hall, another powerful hitter on the Gators roster.
Emily Londot — Ohio State
Ohio State had a breakout season and largely because of freshman phenom, Emily Londot — the AVCA Freshman of the Year. She is back in 2021 for just her sophomore season after averaging over four kills per set in the strong Big Ten conference.
Grace Cleveland — Purdue
Purdue comes into the preseason ranked in the top 10 and returns Grace Cleveland, a first team AVCA All American last season and all-around player who averaged 3.24 kills per set on .295 hitting. Cleveland missed a few matches last season and still put up big-time numbers for the Boilermakers.
Kayla Lund — Pittsburgh
Kayla Lund is back at Pittsburgh as the program's first two-time AVCA All-American. She led that Cinderella NCAA tournament team with 3.74 kills per set last season, meaning she led Pitt to its longest NCAA tournament run in program history, reaching the Elite Eight as the final unseeded team in the field. Not to mention, Lund became the first player in ACC history to repeat as Volleyball Player of the Year, after earning the honors in 2019 and again in 2020-21.
Dani Drews — Utah
Let’s go over to the Pac-12 where Dani Drews, a two-time AVCA first team All American, is back at Utah for her fifth season. She led the team in kills every... single... match last season. But here is the kicker, Drews led the entire NATION with 5.21 kills per set. Not sure there is much more you can say about that. Drews is certainly one of the top offensive players in the NCAA.
Mac May — UCLA
Mac May is back at UCLA after leading the Bruins with 4.33 kills and 4.98 points per set to go with 30 service aces last season. She is a powerful hitter in the Pac-12 — last season she ranked second among Pac-12 players in kills per set and points per set and fourth in aces per set (0.36). She also posted double figures in kills in 21 of 22 matches, reaching the 20-mark on four occasions.
Brooke Nuneviller — Oregon
At Oregon, Brooke Nuneviller returns to what was a really strong Ducks team last season. She is the first Pac-12 player in the rally scoring era to average at least four digs and three kills per set in a season. Remember her historic performance last season? She had 35 kills and only one error on .523 hitting with 19 digs against Washington.
Kylie Deberg — LSU
Lastly, we’ve got Kylie Deberg, a second team AVCA All American who will be at LSU this season. She ranked sixth in the nation last season at Missouri with 4.76 kills per set. Deberg finished the season with 524 kills, 49 aces and 612.5 points. Her 524 kills and 4.72 kills per set were the most in Tiger single-season history.
Honorable Mentions: Kenzie Koerber at BYU, Nicole Lennon at Rice, Lauren Matthews at WKU