By Kirstin Olsen
The 26th Annual Las Vegas Classic, one of the major volleyball recruiting tournaments of the season, featured some of the best 17s and 18s players in the nation. Here are athletes who caught our eye with their standout performances during the three-day event.
Jasmine Burton | Junior | Sunshine 18-Westside
The 5-foot-11 opposite hitter was lighting balls up on the right side all weekend. She hit a few so straight down the line that a couple of spectators let out yelps. The left backs she faced on defense looked like they wanted to put on helmets. Burton has not yet made a college commitment, but should have a plethora of options after this tournament.
Carley Dehoog | Junior | Club West 18 National
The 6-4 left-handed opposite from Ontario Christian (Ontario, Calif.) has committed to Washington. Although her team lost to Rancho Valley 18 Premier and Surf City Adam, her offense on the right was impressive and powerful.
Amy Neal | Senior | Austin Juniors 18 Mizuno
This 5-10 spark plug is a joy to watch. She plays bigger than her size, providing power in the front row and finesse passing. The Texas Gatorade Player of the Year was a key ingredient for Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), which the Class 4A state title and finished No. 2 in the final 2011 POWERADE Fab 50.
Katherine Workman | Senior | Sports Shack 18 Asics
The 5-11 outside hitter was a big reason why Sports Shack won the gold medal at last year's Classic. A Boston College commit with amazing court vision, Workman, a senior, has flown relatively under the radar during her career despite posting an impressive 1,700 kills during her high school career.
Taylor Racich | Senior | Santa Barbara 18-1s
This 6-1 left opposite is the core of her team, and her positive energy radiates through every play. Racich, who has committed to Pepperdine, has a whip of an arm and a great snap.
Brittany Howard | Senior | Vision Gold 18-1
Howard has almost single-handedly taken over matches for her high school team, Mountain View (Mountain View, Calif.). The 6-3 outside hitter dominates the front row but also takes care of business passing and playing defense in the back row as well. She gets low and takes care of the ball like a libero.
Alyssa Jensen | Junior | HPSTL 18 Gold
The Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year, Jensen is a treat to watch. One of only two juniors on her club team, the Cal commit is an elite athlete with a great attitude and should be a leader once again for her St. Joseph’s Academy (St. Louis, Mo.) team next season.
Sarah Benjamin | Sophomore | Coast 16-1 JJ
The 5-7 libero’s 16s team moved up to play in the 17 Open division in Vegas. Benjamin, whose sister Hannah plays at Stanford, has a huge upside. Given more high-level experience like this she will get more looks from college coaches.
Cassie Strickland | Senior | Tstreet 18 Joaquin
Strickland is a tenacious defender and a terrific all-around player. She was the go-to star on her Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) team. The 5-8 libero and Washington commit and has a fierce jump serve, plays hard and is not shy about screaming for the ball.
Laura Leap | Sophomore | Shorts Shack 18-1
This 6-5 middle blocker was the talk of the tournament. Leap, an uncommitted sophomore, appears to be in no hurry to make any decisions and is busy finding her own place on the talented defending champion team.