Did you get a chance to read through our rundown of all of Marquette volleyball’s returning players this fall? That’s right over here if you haven’t already. It’s important to read that part of the ol’ season preview as MU’s season is getting started later this week. Plus, it’s all important context for what we’re going to talk about here, which is the newcomers on head coach Ryan Theis’ roster. We’ll talk about it more in Three Questions, but it’s safe to say you’re going to see an awful lot of these new faces as this season goes along.
Let’s get started!
Let’s start here because while Ryan Theis has just one new setter on the team, she’s the most likely new face to make an immediate impact on the team. Yadhira Anchante comes to Marquette by way of two seasons at Iowa Western Community College. All the 6-foot tall Peruvian did in those two seasons was pick up two NJCAA Division 1 National Player of the Year trophies AND two tournament MVP trophies as Iowa Western won two national championships. In 62 matches played, Anchante averaged 11.20 assists per set, and her two season assist total of 2,441 would rank #7 in Marquette history.
She’s not just a great setter. She got those POY and MVP trophies by chipping in all over the floor. Last fall, Anchante averaged 3.48 digs, 0.69 blocks, and 0.37 aces per set. Only Carly Skrabak playing libero for Marquette last year did better than that on digs (3.77), and only Hope Werch, literally the best server in Marquette history, did better than that on aces (0.51). Anchante would have run third on blocks behind Savannah Rennie and Carsen Murray. Yes, yes, blah blah, that’s junior college, how does it translate to the Big East, I get it. I’m drawing a picture of how much Anchante can contribute all over the floor for the Golden Eagles. The only question left to answer is whether or not she can stay at roughly the same levels at Marquette and thus does Theis go to a one setter system after years with two setters subbing in and out. If Anchante can do it all, then yeah, then you leave her out there and apologize to Caroline Dragani and Ella Foti about their playing time.
By the way? Thanks to COVID eligibility relief, Anchante is a sophomore and has three years of eligibility remaining. Oh, and she joined the team back last winter, so she’s already gotten on the same page with MU’s returning hitters. Seems good.
Marquette has just two outside hitters returning from last season, and one of them — Hannah Vanden Berg — is recovering from a knee injury last November that ended her season. The official MU team preview uses the phrase “will aid the lineup when she works her way back from injury.” That “when” is carrying an awfully heavy load there, so I don’t think I’m stretching to say that Theis and his staff will end up leaning on their new outside hitters early and often this season.
That list starts with Aubrey Hamilton, a 6’2” junior with two seasons of competition at Notre Dame in her back pocket. After finishing up high school as the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Wisconsin and landing as the #34 prospect in the country according to PrepVolleyball.com, Hamilton averaged 2.94 kills per set for the Irish, including leading the squad at 3.07/set last fall. She’s closer to home now with three seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to COVID eligibility relief after attending Arrowhead High School in Hartland. The big thing she’s going to need to improve on if she wants to be the focus of the MU attack this year? Hitting percentage. Hamilton hit just .191 in her two years at Notre Dame, and that’s not going to get it done as a top attacker on an NCAA tournament team. Like Anchante, Hamilton has been on campus since the start of the spring semester, so she’s already folded into the team and won’t need time to acclimate during fall camp.
The same can’t be said for Marquette’s three freshmen hitters. Sienna Ifill and Natalie Ring are probably the two most likely to make an impact on the rotation right away. Ifill stands 6’1”, and when you have a top 90 recruit, you should expect her take a few swings right away. The Minnesota native isn’t just a talented volleyball player that led Eagan to a 62-6 record over her final three seasons, she’s a heck of an athlete who broke her high school’s triple jump record, too. Ring, who is also 6’1”, hails from Madison, right up the road, and she was a top 150 prospect herself. She earned Second Team All-American honors from the AVCA for the 2021 campaign, so that #140 ranking might just be slightly underrating her, too. I am slightly curious about the fact that she only hit .280 for her entire high school career, but that’s more of a “you’d think a Division 1 prospect would be dominating” curiosity. If Ring can hit .280 at Marquette, she’ll be just fine. Even if she doesn’t, Marquette just might need the playing time from both Ring and Ifill as this season goes along anyway.
Rounding out the group of newcomers at the pins is Ella Holmstrom, a 6’1” freshman from Rockford, Illinois. Here’s a weird phrase from her official Marquette bio: “At one point was the No. 42 player in the Class of 2022, according to Prep Volleyball.” That’s weird, right? Why would you mention what she used to be when she was very clearly not that any more by the time the rankings finalized for this recruiting class? This sounds an awful lot like someone in the volleyball office working out some issues with the recruiting ranking process, but who knows. Anyway, relative to my note about Natalie Ring only hitting .280, Holmstrom averaged 4.88 kills and hit .410 as a senior at Guilford High School, where she was also a four year captain of the volleyball team. Can she get rotation time this year? Maybe! Marquette had five different hitters play in at least 25 matches a year ago, and they all played in at least 80 of the 113 sets. If Jenna Reitsma is the only known quantity returning for MU, then it’s very easy to see how all four new outside hitters get on the floor regularly all season long.
Marquette has just one new middle blocker on the team. Morgan Daugherty is a 6’3” freshman from Brookfield, and she’ll be challenging MU’s returning corps of middle for playing time. She’s already familiar with one teammate after playing with Ella Holmstrom on the club circuit, so that’s good news. She was the Brookfield Central leader in blocks for all four years of high school, finishing up with 258 total alongside 725 kills. In what bodes as a good bit of info for how things have generally gone for Marquette, Daugherty led her entire conference in hitting percentage as a junior. MU has a long history of creating situations for middles to make highly successful and accurate strikes, so if she can replicate that, she can be successful. Can she do that this year? Mmmmm, maybe not so much. Carsen Murray, Claire Nuessmeier, and Anastasjia Svetnik have all shown that they can hold their own against Big East foes at one point or another to varying degrees. If Hattie Bray is ready to give it a go after a redshirt season last fall, that’s another body in front of Daugherty in the rotation.
Adriana Studer is the only new defensive specialist on the team this fall. With Carly Skrabak playing libero, there’s not much of a need for that role this season, and there are two sophomore DS’s in front of Studer in the rotation not to mention Megan Lund as well. Now, if Studer shows she can go, then she can go. She was a four year starter in high school, and the Hartland native earned all-tournament honors as her team made it to the state title game last fall. This comes after she won a state title with Lake Country Lutheran in 2018. She’s also an excellent server, leading LCL’s conference in aces as both a junior and a senior. Ryan Theis loves to make use of his deep bench to sub in exclusively to serve for whatever reason, and the fact that she’s going to be used to playing on the back line anyway makes her an excellent candidate for that role this fall. We’ll see what happens, maybe it turns into MU’s #2 defensive specialist behind Skrabak.