GRAND FORKS, N.D.-- University of North Dakota head volleyball coach Mark Pryor announced a group of five student-athletes who have all signed National Letters of Intent during the most-recent early signing period. The group will continue their athletic and academic careers as they head to UND in the Fall of 2018.
"This is the most complete class we have signed here at UND, Pryor said. "It is the highest attacking class we've had. It's the most experienced with multiple all-state players, and nationally recognized players. The volleyball IQ of this class is also the best that we have signed."
Lexi Ahrens, 6'2, Middle, Virginia, Minn.
*News Tribune all-area volleyball player of the year
*Ranked among the state's leaders with 466 kills as a junior
*Earned All-Iron Range Conference, All-State honorable mention last season
*All-conference, all-area and all-state as a senior
"Lexi will play in the middle for us. She is very quick, and has the potential to be a really physical player. Lexi is just an exceptional athlete that has not scratched the surface of what she can become. She is already a very effective blocker, and she will only get better with time. With hard work, she will be a match up problem for opponents."
Darian Chwialkowski, 5'11", Outside, West Fargo, N.D.
*First-team all-state last two seasons
*Eastern Dakota Conference Senior Athlete of the Year
*Second-team all-state in 2015
*North Dakota Class A state tournament last year
*Led West Fargo on a 26-match winning streak leading up to the state tournament, finishing with a 34-2 overall record.
Darian is a six-rotation player, and she's one of the best six-rotation players to come out of the state in a while. She will be able to help us immediately as a defensive player in the back row who can attack, and then long term she can develop into that six-rotation player who can hit well from the front row and back row. She is a very smooth player and elevates very well."
Taliyah Flores, 5'8", Libero/Outside, Papillion, Neb.
*Leads team in kills and digs
*Under Armour Third-Team All-American
*Ranked as the second-best 2018 prospect from Nebraska by prepdig.com.
*1st team All-State
*Top 11 defensive players in the nation according to Prep Volleyball.com
*Notched school record for digs as MVP of her prep team
"Taliyah is a special player. She has a certain leadership aspect that is hard to describe, but you'll recognize it immediately when you see her play. She will compete for time as a libero or defensive specialist pretty quickly once she gets to campus. Her range on defense and her explosiveness to the ball are going to fit right in with our defensive mentality. She is a fierce competitor, and that will help our gym culture. Defensively, she exudes an attitude of confidence in the back row, and she is a fierce competitor."
Morgan Hunt, 6'3, Middle, Racine, Wis.
*A member of the Wisconsin Juniors 17-1’s team and has been a part of the program since she was 13.
*Attends Racine Park High School in Racine, Wis.
*School's most valuable player
*2nd team all-county and all-conference
"Morgan has primarily been a middle, but could develop into a pin player with time. There's a lot that she could do for us long term. Morgan is actually a pretty skilled passer and defender for her height, so we really like what she might be able to develop into for us in the future. She hits pretty well off one foot, and she can be a real net presence with her blocking. She could really play any front row spot for us, and we are excited to see what she can develop into."
Brynn Nieukirk, 6'2", Outside, Washington, Ill.
*Led her high school to a 27-8 season in 2016
*Earned Journal Star all-area honors.
*USAV High Performance A2 Team - Las Vegas
*Mid Illini All Conference 1st Team in 2016
*Peoria Journal Star All Area 1st Team
*AAU 17 Open National Champions 2017
"Brynn is a true six-rotation outside hitter that will give us some much needed length at the left side position. She is a really fluid passer and defender, and she moves the ball around well when she attacks. She has played at a pretty high level of club ball and been pretty successful, and that could really ease her transition to the college game. Fans will really enjoy watching her play."
"If I could describe this class in one word, it would be aggressive," Pryor said. "This group will be fun to coach, but they will be a challenge to coach as well, and I fully recognize that. The way they compete, and even the way they interact with others is aggressive. That's not a bad thing at all. As a program we need more of that. They are 'go getters' to say the least. Over the last two years, we have only had one freshman come in and earn immediate playing time (2016-Ashley Brueggeman). This group, if they come in with the proper mindset, and they are in proper shape, could definitely see court time early, and we will need some of these players to step in immediately. That's not an easy thing to do, but that's the way it goes.
"I will put this class up against class that any Summit League team is bringing in any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. But, we are never done recruiting. If we can find a player that makes us better and can be a fit with our program, we will do whatever we can to make this program the best it can be. These players all bring great value, but they will need to work hard to assimilate with our culture here if they want to be successful. As a program we don't change who we are for recruits."