2017 Season Preview: 5 Breakout Players to watch
Like clockwork, every high school volleyball season and handful of players come out of nowhere to establish themselves as one of the best in the state. It’s sure to be the case again in 2017 and here is a look…
Like clockwork, every high school volleyball season and handful of players come out of nowhere to establish themselves as one of the best in the state. It’s sure to be the case again in 2017 and here is a look at five players you may not have heard much about but that are about to become household names.
Jessie Brandl, 5-foot-8, junior, OH/Libero, Stanton, #13 prospect in Class of 2019
Brandl was a first team All-Class C-2 last year for a state championship team, so it’s not like she’s coming out of nowhere, but she’s about to establish herself as one of the best players in the state regardless of class.
Just five kills shy of being in the 600-600 club for kills and digs in a career, Brandl is the ultimate full-rotation player for the Mustangs although her projects as one of the best liberos in the state. She’s a slightly more athletic version of Hayley Densberger, the freshman walk-on at Nebraska from Malcolm. It’s that all-around athleticism that has kept her active in multiple high school sports and out of the major club scene, keeping her a big-time secret in the recruiting world. It’s very realistic to think Brandl could go for 400 kills and 400 digs this year and if she does, she would actually be in position to break the all-time career marks in Class C-2 for both kills and digs. Think about that for a moment.
Logan Connealy, 6-foot, junior, OH/MH, Elkhorn South, #16 prospect in Class of 2019
Connealy has played in the shadows of players such as Kelsey Green and Sarah Swanson the last two years at Elkhorn South, but she has still made major contributions. Last season she was second on the team with 61 total blocks and third in kills with 149.
While there will be plenty of attention on highly-touted Elkhorn South freshman Rylee Gray, make no mistake, the Storm will be Connealy’s team for the next two years. The 6-footer has made tremendous strides in her all-around game and has grown into a physically strong frame. Now that she is the top returning attacker on the team, look for Connealy to really break out for an Elkhorn South team that might be a sleeper contender for the Class B title.
Jada Key, 6-foot, senior, MH/RS, Millard West, #30 prospect in Class of 2018
There are late bloomers and then there is Jada Key. Things have finally started to click at a higher rate for the Millard West senior over the last few months, and that’s a scary thought for other Class A teams.
Key has never played on a top team during her club career and enters her senior having logged playing time in just 15 varsity sets. But, that’s the past. Key spent portions of this spring and summer training with the USAV High Performance top teams and could be the wildcard in determining how Class A is won this year. And incredible leaper, Key showed flashes of brilliance in her limited time last year, getting six kills and two blocks in a win over Lincoln Northeast and adding five kills and 3 ½ blocks in a win over Lincoln Southwest. You may not know Jada Key yet, but that’s all about the change.
Lexie Langley, 6-foot, junior, OH, Archbishop Bergan, #30 prospect in Class of 2019
Langley is one of those prototypical Nebraska kids that just continues to get better and better with every passing season. A full-rotation starter since starting her career for Class C-2 Archbishop Bergan, Langley has started to draw recruiting attention for top Division II programs and smaller Division I programs and that interest is only expected to grow.
Langley had 323 kills as a sophomore for the Knights in 2016 while hitting at a .299 clip, which is impressive when considering she plays in the toughest conference in the state (Centennial) and is always the main focus of opponents. For her career Langley has 811 digs – 426 of which came last year. It will be tough sledding in the Centennial Conference for Bergan again this season, but with Langley leading the way, the Knights are capable of beating anyone.
Molly Plahn, 6-foot-1, sophomore, MH, Millard North, #8 prospect in Class of 2020
Yes, defending Class A champion Millard North lost some key pieces from last year, but the dirty little secret nobody is talking about is the fact that the Mustangs will be better and more talented in 2017. A big reason why – literally – is 6-foot-1 sophomore Molly Plahn.
Plahn didn’t see the varsity court as a freshman but kept grinding away by destroying people at the junior varsity level and then having a strong club season, which got her on the radar of a lot of Division I programs. Plahn is an effortless leaper with good footwork and quickness at the net and she will make the Mustangs even more imposing at the net than last season, which is really saying something. With all the talent Millard North has at the net, Plahn won’t put-up massive numbers statistically, but she will play a huge role in whether or not the Mustangs can repeat as state champs.