The Illinois Volleyball season has been over for two months now, but the spring season is right around the corner and the regular season won’t be far behind that. With a new year comes new players joining the roster, and our first roster preview for the 2019 season will cover the majority of the newcomers to the roster: the six freshmen.
Ellie Holzman, 6’2” OH/MB, New Orleans, LA
Headlining the freshman class this year is Holzman, who received numerous accolades in the past year, most notably a Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year honor back in January.
Per MaxPreps, Holzman had an incredible senior season upon which she’ll hope to build once joining the Illini roster. With 571 kills and a .486 hitting percentage, Holzman was a huge offensive threat. She was also a stellar server, with a 98% serving percentage and only eight service errors in 394 attempts.
Kennedy Collins, 6’3” OH, Zion, IL
The other outside hitter in the freshman class, Collins was the bright spot for a high school program which faced significant struggles, going 3-15-1 this fall. Collins initially commited to play at Bradley, before decommiting and signing with the Illini.
Stats from Collins’s senior season couldn’t be found, but as a junior she put up 203 kills and 62 blocks.
Kyla Swanson, 6’4” MB, Wahoo, NE
Swanson, coming to Illinois from a state with a great volleyball program of its own, was considered to be the top 2019 player in Nebraska by PrepDig.com.
Another offensive threat, Swanson had 352 kills in 2018 at a .462 clip. Her presence on the block couldn’t be understated, with 56 solo blocks as a senior, and she was also a great server, picking up aces on just over 13% of her serves.
Rylee Hinton, 6’2” MB, Champaign, IL
Hinton didn’t have to travel far to join the Illini, as a graduate of Central High School in Champaign. Hinton is already enrolled at the University of Illinois, and will be the only freshman playing spring ball for the Illini this year.
Hinton led the state of Illinois in hitting percentage as a senior, hitting .441 with 286 kills while also picking up 70 blocks on the year.
Alyssa Eske (5’3” DS, Milwaukee, WI) and Madison Chi (5’8” DS, Irvine, CA)
Eske and Chi have both committed to play at Illinois next year, but never signed NLI’s as they are walk-ons, per Scott Richey.
Impact: Balance and Opportunity
With six freshmen on the roster split evenly between the three core volleyball positions, there’s a lot to like with this class, especially in the long term than for just next season specifically.
Illinois lost two middles in Ali Bastianelli and Blayke Hranicka after the 2018 season, and those spots will need to be filled. Rylee Hinton will be getting valuable experience this spring working with the team, and Kyla Swanson and Ellie Holzman won’t be far behind. If there’s one spot where freshmen will likely be playing and starting for the Illini, it will be at middle.
Meanwhile, on the defensive and outside hitter roles, the Illini return a solid core, which will be discussed later. I don’t anticipate seeing freshmen moving into either of these positions quickly if at all, just due to the existing depth at these positions.
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