Illini volleyball signs two top-10 players to 2015 class

By By: Stephen Bourbon

Illinois volleyball reached out of state to ink one of the best recruiting classes in the country.

The Illini announced Wednesday that three players, all from outside the state of Illinois, signed letters of intent for the 2015 class, including two top-10 players according to Illinois signed setter Jordyn Poulter, middle blocker Ali Bastianelli and outside hitter Beth Prince.

Poulter and Bastianelli were both named Under Armour First Team All-Americans, which was announced on Nov. 5, while Prince was named to the second team.  

“I feel fortunate that I coach volleyball and not basketball because, if we’re looking at these recruits, you’re looking at some one-and-done kids with their rankings,” head coach Kevin Hambly said.

Poulter, the No. 3 player in the country and ranked as the nation’s best setter, is from Aurora, Colorado. She has a wealth of international experience, playing at the 2013 FIVB U18 World Championships in Thailand — she was given the Best Setter award for the tournament.

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    “She’s one of the most accomplished setters that has been out in the past 15 or 20 years,” Hambly said. “She’s elite.”

    Bastianelli set a Marysville High School (Michigan) record with 34 kills on Tuesday night in the team’s regional semifinal match. Bastianelli is the No. 10 player in the class and averaged 5.2 kills per set and 1.5 blocks per set in her senior season. Hambly said Bastianelli was a raw prospect early in her high school career, but has developed into a top-10 player.

    “She’s competitive in karate, which I think defines how she plays,” Hambly said. “She plays with that kind of mentality where she wants to go attack people. I like her mentality and her approach.”

    Prince is described as a “God-given point-scorer” from Avon, Indiana, although she has dealt with injury issues over the course of her high school career. Prince dealt with stress fractures in her foot and ankle injuries, which kept her off the court for much of her junior season. She was named and’s Freshman of the Year in her freshman year, and Hambly is confident she will get back to that form.

    “If she wasn’t injured, (I) think she would have been ranked higher,” Hambly said. “She’s through all that now and she should be fine now.”

    Poulter and Bastianelli are the first top-10 prospects to sign with the Illini since Liz McMahon inked her commitment as the No. 3 player in the 2011 class. Hambly has never signed a class with two top-10 prospects and has only had three total: McMahon, Anna Dorn in 2010 and Colleen Ward, who transferred from Florida in 2008.

    The team rankings haven’t been announced yet, but Hambly anticipates this class will be ranked similarly to the 2011 class, which was No. 3 nationally.

    “I would say this should be at least a top-three class,” Hambly said.

    Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @steve_bourbon.