Northern Lights Qualifier Shining Stars: 17 Open Middles Blockers
Be sure to follow @lshotvb on Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter for all things volleyball! – The 2024 Northern Lights Qualifier was one for the books. With the first part of the Northern Lights Qualifier taking place this past weekend, we got to see what the 18,…
The 2024 Northern Lights Qualifier was one for the books.
With the first part of the Northern Lights Qualifier taking place this past weekend, we got to see what the 18, 17 and 15s field were shaping up to this coming club season. 17 Open saw Houston Skyline take home the NLQ Crown after upsetting the projected winners, 1st Alliance in the gold pools.
Because of all of the talent on display in this division, there’s so much to talk about. So, we’re going to be breaking down the 17 Open Division by positions. Last but not least, let’s take a look at some of those middles in Minneapolis this weekend.
Bayleigh Minor & Mackenzie Collins – Houston Skyline
When you have middles like these, there’s no reason you don’t feed them as much as you can. That’s the magic sauce for this Houston Skyline team. This 1-2 punch in the middle of Bayleigh Minor and Mackenzie Collins is a force of nature. These two are so dominant and so dynamic, there’s not a time where you can’t get them the ball because they’re always available.
It’s to no surprise that these two are so good in the middle either, they’re dual sport athletes. Both Minor and Collins are just as big of stars on the track as they are the volleyball court. Collins is signed to Texas A&M for both sports, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the yet committed, Minor to follow suit. Nonetheless, these two were Co-MVPs on the weekend, leading Skyline to a Northern Lights Qualifier Championship.
– Northern Lights
At this size, its not too difficult to score. But as big asis, she’s developing a real nice agility around the court. That’s what makes her even more dangerous. Marquette bound, Schmidt looks to be shaping up like a Marquette VB legend, Jenna Rosenthal. That tells you all you need to know.
Shelby Ignash – Michigan Elite
One of the best to do it off of one foot, Shelby Ignash looks like she’s finding a new gear coming into her second club season. While, still dominant off of that one foot, in front and behind the setter, Ignash is looking REALLY good coming off of two feet. She’s widening her array of routes she can hit along the net, and she’s looking more and more potent in each one.
Natalie Wardlow – Nebraska One
One of the biggest reasons that Nebraska One was able to go 5-0 to start the weekend was because of Natalie Wardlow. On a team full of undersized dandies, Wardlow, at 6’4, brings a nice balance to this team. Not only is Wardlow a really effective blocker, but she brings a lot on her offense as well.
Keirstyn Carlton – Drive Nation
This may be the only other uncommitted middle on this list. And after this weekend, whoever ends up with Keirstyn Carlton on their recruiting class has some real fire power coming in. A part of this new look of Drive Nation this season, Carlton is looking to be one of those newbies to keep them in contention for bids and high finishes. She’s an athletic body in the middle that works well laterally and can bring a big boom in transition.
Jordan Taylor – Houston Juniors
Much like Schmidt, being this big comes with its perks. I remember when I first saw Jordan Taylor in action at MEQs her 15s year, and this weekend was the first I got to see her since. And to no surprise, the growth here is insane. No longer is Taylor just a big body on the court, but she’s a BIG presence! For her size, she moves so well and poses such a threat when she can get the ball into her wheelhouse. Taylor’s game reminds me a lot of Florida’s Rhamat Alhassan, which is means huge things for both Taylor and the Gophers in the coming years.
Kalyssa Blackshear – Surfside
I love a middle that can hit just about anything. Whatever it is, when in doubt, just throw the ball up and let Kalyssa Blackshear find it. She’ll score almost every single time. It’s a lot of fun watching Blackshear do her thing on the court. With the endless of possibilities she presents as an attacker, she is also an incredible blocker.