The University of Tennessee volleyball program’s 2008 recruiting class has been ranked as the 13th-best group in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com. The class is comprised of five student-athletes, including four incoming freshmen and a junior college transfer.
“I am very excited that this group of players is being recognized for the high level of talent that it possesses,” Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick said. “Not only will they be able to make an impact on the court immediately, but they also put our program in good hands for the years to come.”
Patrick said he was also excited about the “tremendous class” of incoming athletes.
“I truly feel, however, that by the time this class graduates, it will be viewed as one of the top 10 in the country,” he said. “We fully expect each member of this group to play significant roles in our success over the next few years.”
Joining the Lady Vols roster this fall will be 6-foot-3-inch middle blocker Alyssa Hilby (Tacoma, Wash.), 5-foot-10-inch setter Kelsey Mahoney (Fort Worth, Texas), 5-foot-11-inch outside hitter Kayla Jeter (Solon, Ohio), 6-foot-3-inch middle blocker DeeDee Harrison (Nashville, Tenn.) and 5-foot-8-inch junior setter Michaela Hanakova (Brno, Czech Republic).
Despite missing her senior season at Life Christian Academy due to a knee injury, Hilby was the most dominant player in her school’s history, amassing career records for kills, blocks and digs. A two-time First Team All-Nisqually League selection, the middle blocker led the Eagles to appearances in the state tournament in each of her four seasons.
Mahoney brings an impressive résumé to Rocky Top. She is ranked No. 38 on PrepVolleyball.com’s Senior Aces list and was named one of the top two setters in the state of Texas by LoneStarVolleyball.com. She was selected as the MVP of the Texas Advantage club team, which earned the distinction of 2006 Team of the Year from LoneStarVolleyball.com. Mahoney also participated on the USA Volleyball Youth National Team in 2006, helping the squad earn the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) Girls’ Youth Continental Volleyball Championship with a perfect 5-0 record.
Harrison, the first in-state recruit during Patrick’s tenure on Rocky Top, hails from Nashville, Tenn. The middle blocker ranks 63rd on the PrepVolleyball.com Senior Aces list and played on the Impact VBC club team. During her time at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Harrison lettered all four years in volleyball, basketball and softball. She served as the captain for the volleyball team during her entire career, garnering all-district honors in her final three years, while picking up all-tournament laurels in the last two.
Harrison boasts a strong athletic pedigree, as her dad, former Vanderbilt star Dennis “Bigfoot” Harrison, spent ten seasons as a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. Her brother, David Harrison, is currently a center on the Indiana Pacers roster in the NBA.
Jeter, an outside hitter listed as No. 67 on the PrepVolleyball.com Senior Aces list, guided Solon High School in Ohio to a remarkable 84-24 record during her four years with the team. The squad reached the playoffs in all four seasons, nabbing district championship crowns each year, conference titles in the final three and a trip to the state tournament as regional champions in 2006.
From her sophomore year on, Jeter earned all-state honors each season, including 2005 third-team all-state, 2006 second-team all-state and 2007 first-team all-state. Her father, Gary, was an All-American defensive tackle for Southern California, a top-five draft pick and played in the NFL for 13 seasons.
Hanakova was a first team NJCAA All-America selection in 2007 after leading Salt Lake Community College to a 44-2 overall record and a third-place finish at the NJCAA National Tournament. She also earned a multitude of individual honors, including all-tournament team, as well as All-West Region First Team and Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year accolades. Before arriving at Salt Lake, she guided her club team, VK KP Brno, to back-to-back Czech National Championships in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Following the second title, Hanakova was named the MVP (setter) of the Czech junior major league.
The Lady Vols are just one of five SEC squads to make the list of 30 teams and rank only behind No. 1-rated Florida among league schools. UT also earned recognition from PrepVolleyball.com in 2006, when its recruiting class was ranked eighth in the nation.
The rankings assess classes based on their predicted immediate and long-term impact to their respective programs. The top 10 classes, in order, are: Florida, Texas, California, UCLA, Southern California, Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan, Pepperdine and Long Beach State.
Tennessee will open its 2008 schedule against in-state rival Chattanooga at the Marquette Kick-Off Classic in Milwaukee, Wis., on Friday, August 29. The Lady Vols’ first home contest will come on Friday, Sept. 12, when they host Gardner-Webb at 10 a.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.