Maryland volleyball head coach Steve Aird is building a serious program. The Terps secured their best ever recruiting class for 2017 with six recruits, four of whom officially signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. The program’s previous best recruiting class came in 2016.
The 2017 recruiting class includes four Under Armour All-Americans, tied for the lead nationally with Wisconsin, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois. Besides Kentucky, Big Ten schools dominate that list, and besides Illinois, all those schools are ranked, with Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin as the top three teams in the country.
In 2016, the Terps signed their first Under Armour First Team All-American in Gia Milana. The class also had PrepVolleyball’s No. 62 recruit Katie Myers and setter Taylor Smith, who was named a PrepVolleyball ‘Top 150’ recruit. With Megan McTigue, Nell Drummey and Aylin Saran in the group too, Maryland had the No. 16 recruiting class in the country.
2017’s class will rank even higher, a tremendous feat for a team sitting near the bottom of the Big Ten standings. Maryland secured its second Under Armour First Team All-American in Sam Drechsel, an outside hitter from Washington state. There is little drop off in quality after Drechsel, with three other Under Armour All-Americans, and one on the watch list, in the group.
Three quarters of the way through Maryland’s 2016 season, the Terps are 10-16 and 2-12 in the Big Ten. An upset win over then-No. 19 Ohio State and a straight sets victory over Rutgers stand as the Terps’ lone Big Ten victories. But with another promising class coming to College Park, it appears as if Aird and the Terps will soon be challenging Big Ten’s elite volleyball schools, not scrambling to win at least a set against them.
Maryland volleyball’s 2017 recruiting class:
Sam Drechsel – Outside Hitter/Opposite Hitter – 6’4”
The Woodinville, Washington native will officially sign for the Terps on Wednesday, and will enroll at the University in January. Drechsel is Maryland’s second ever Under Armour First Team All-American, following a year after Milana. She was also named PrepVolleyball’s No. 23 Senior Ace.
Drechsel is no stranger to high rankings. She was a PrepVolleyball Top 50 Junior and ranked 79 as a sophomore. She will come in as a player who can immediately bring something to the Terps, much like Milana has this season. For Maryland, two promising hitters add another depth to its attack. Milana will not be set 50 plus times a match, and the defense will have to key in on multiple options, rather than focusing solely on Milana.
Per MaxPreps, in Drechsel’s 342 varsity sets played in high school, she had 1862 kills, a .307 hitting percentage, 134 blocks, 956 digs and 229 aces.
Lexi Alden – Outside Hitter – 6’2”
After winning Wisconsin’s State Championship with Catholic Memorial High School three seasons in a row, the Waukesha native will enroll at Maryland in January and signs for the Terps on Wednesday. Alden made the Under Armour Watch List, as well as PrepVolleyball’s ‘Top 150’.
According to MaxPreps, through her four years on varsity, she accumulated 1495 kills, a .311 hitting percentage, 191 blocks, 862 digs and 127 aces.
While she’s a top recruit, Alden may be overshadowed by Milana and Drechsel in terms of immediate impact. But depth is something Aird’s team has needed desperately with all the team’s injuries, and Alden will help with that. Milana has been playing through what Aird describes as an upper and lower body injury, missing practice for much of the past couple weeks.
Jada Gardner – Outside Hitter/Middle Blocker/Opposite Hitter – 6’1”
The versatile player from Cibolo, Texas signs for the Terps on Wednesday. With Ashlyn MacGregor graduating, Gardner may combine with injured freshman Katie Myers as a middle blocker.
The Steele High School senior is the No. 68 PrepVolleyball Senior Ace, as well as a 2015 PrepVolleyball Top 50 Junior. Gardner also happens to be Shane Battier’s niece, which is pretty cool (Except for his Duke connection).
Watch Gardner (No. 31) in action:
Erika Pritchard – Outside Hitter – 6’2”
The Terps secured the signing of the Maryland native on Wednesday, holding off interest from around the country. The Middletown High School senior is a great grab for Maryland, continuing its drive funnel Maryland athletes to the state’s flagship school.
Pritchard is an Under Armour Second Team All-American, as well as the No. 29 PrepVolleyball Senior Ace.
In her junior and senior years of high school, she has hit .409 with 383 kills, 46 blocks, 229 digs and 53 aces, gathered from MaxPreps.
Sam Burgio – Defensive Specialist/Outside Hitter – 5'10"
Burgio was the 2015 New York Gatorade Player of the Year, and a 2015 PrepVolleyball All-American. This year, she was named as a PrepVolleyball ‘Top 150’ as well as an Under Armour Honorable Mention All-American.
The Eden, New York native can learn from one of the best liberos in the Big Ten, sophomore Kelsey Wicisnki. Burgio is enrolling at Maryland in January, and should get a leg-up with the extra time with Wicinski.
As a senior at Eden High School, she notched 338 kills, a .357 hitting percentage, 48 blocks, 240 digs and 73 aces, per MaxPreps.
Watch Burgio as a sophomore in the 2014 New York State Championship on a serving streak:
Chloe Prejean – Setter – 5’10”
The second and final Maryland signing is Prejean, a Under Armour Third Team All-American. The Heritage Academy setter averaged 5.9 assists per set and 2480 total assists through her five years of varsity volleyball – she played up as an eighth grader.
She also had 482 aces and 979 digs according to MaxPreps. In her junior and senior years, she also developed her attacking game, adding more than 300 kills per season.
Watch Prejean set as a junior: