CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Wednesday was National Signing Day for volleyball programs nationwide, and Fighting Illini head coach Chris Tamas announced two new additions to the Illinois family. The two incoming freshmen were teammates at the club level, playing for Triangle Volleyball Club in Morrisville, North Carolina.
Both players mentioned personal aspirations of playing in the Big Ten as reasons for choosing Illinois.
“This class has a ton of experience winning at a high level, both in club and high school,” Tamas said in a statement. “They will have an impact on the program from day one and will be a tremendous addition to the Illini FamILLy.”
Ashlyn Philpot is a 6-foot-4 middle blocker from DH Conley High School in Greenville, North Carolina. She was Prep Volleyball’s No. 44 prospect in the Class of 2024, and enjoyed a very decorated high school career,
She’s a former state champion, two-time all-conference player and was named a U17 club All-American by Prep Volleyball in 2023. Recently, she was named to the JVA’s Class of 2024 All-National team in 2023, an honor that soon-to-be teammate middle blocker Cari Bohm earned in 2022.
“Ashlyn is an elite level blocker with great reading ability and lateral speed. She is a non-stop worker both on the competition court and in the practice gym,” Tamas said. “Ashlyn brings a ton of passion and energy to the game, and she has an inspiring competitive drive that helps will her team(s) to win.”
Laynie Smith is a 6-foot-3 outside/opposite hitter from Durham, North Carolina and played at Chapel Hill High School. She was named to the top 125 in Prep Volleyball’s 2024 class, and was an AVCA First Team All-American. She was a three-time all-state honoree in North Carolina, a four-time all-conference player in both volleyball and basketball, and was also selected to compete in the Under Armour All-American games.
The high school dual-sport athlete is versatile on the volleyball court, too. She’s had to play as an opposite hitter, an outside hitter and a middle blocker throughout her young career.
“She has embraced whatever the team has needed her to do to win and excelled at each position with a great attitude. Laynie will be trained as an outside hitter and an opposite with us,” Tamas said.
Smith was heavily recruited not just in volleyball but also in basketball, receiving four Division I offers, according to her Twitter.
If Shauna Green needs a guard next year, she might have to give Chris Tamas a call.
SHOES TO FILL
Tamas’ team will lose at least three players at season’s end. Fifth-year senior outside/opposite hitter Jessica Nunge will graduate, as will graduate middle blocker Kennedy Collins and graduate defensive specialist/libero Vanessa Pan.
Additionally, star senior outside hitter Raina Terry’s departure would mean Tamas may have some work to do in the transfer portal next spring.