Colorado State volleyball started to introduce the next generation of players Wednesday with three signees of National Letters of Intent. Two of the players are outside hitters and the third is a setter, all hailing from the West Coast.
Jacqueline Van Liefde, an outside hitter from Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., penned the first letter of intent. As a freshman, Van Liefde received Second-Team All-League honors and improved that in her sophomore and junior years by reaching First-Team All-League and being named Co-MVP both years. The welcoming nature of Fort Collins is what pushed Van Liefde to put pen to paper.
“I am attracted to the beauty of Fort Collins and the active community of people,” Van Liefde said in a statement. “Everyone was so welcoming and I really felt at home.”
“She is an athletic outside hitter that will need some development, but is really physical,” head coach Tom Hilbert added. “She will be somebody that we will develop and will eventually be very powerful and good for us.”
The Rams will also add on Kava Durr, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker from Emerald Ridge High School in South Hill, Wash. She was recently named as an Under Armour Girls High School All-America Honorable Mention.
Durr has a career .302 hitting percentage, including a .311 mark this season, the best of her high school career. She has 389 kills on the season as her team is about to start the trek through the 4A Washington volleyball state tournament, the highest division in Washington high school sports. Durr’s 55 total blocks lead the Jaguars this season and she has totaled 133 blocks in her high school career.
“I chose CSU because of the focus on the student athlete succeeding in the classroom and on the court,” Durr said in a statement. “I also liked the culture of the volleyball team. They are close to each other. They push each other to compete and work toward their common goal.”
“Kava is very athletic and has a really powerful arm,” Hilbert said. “She will have a good chance at starting for us right away and make an impact.”
The third 2018 member is setter Ciera Zimmerman from Auburn Riverside High School in Auburn, Wash. The team captain and club teammate of Durr is also currently leading her team towards their 4A state playoff run beginning Friday. The Ravens are the No. 1 team in the state.
CSU already features a strong setter in sophomore Katie Oleksak, who was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year last year and won the MW Offensive Player of the Week award on Monday. However, the only other listed setter on the Rams’ roster is freshman Jenna Heinemeyer, but she is listed first as a defensive specialist. Zimmerman could be the replacement Hilbert is looking for once Oleksak moves on from the program.
This year’s freshman class featured three defensive specialists and one middle blocker as Hilbert wanted to improve on the defensive aspect of the team. The Rams will lose senior defensive specialist McKenna Thornlow, so bringing in three players of the same spot filled a soon to be needed role.
The same goes for this year with the signing of Van Liefde and Durr as CSU is set to lose two of their three top outside hitters in Jasmine Hanna and Sanja Cizmic. Despite playing as a middle blocker in high school, Durr looks like she will be making the switch to outside based off the statement by Hilbert.
Wednesday marked the beginning of the early signing period for most collegiate sports and it runs until Nov. 15. The actual National Signing Day for volleyball and most sports is not until April 11, 2018.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44.