(Editor’s note: Carroll College media release)
HELENA — Moe Boyle isn’t mincing words in regard to her 2019 Fighting Saints volleyball recruiting class.
“In my mind, it’s by far the best recruiting class we’ve had,” Boyle said.
Now with spring practices and games wrapped and, save a few gym rats hitting balls in the PE Center between finals this week, the Saints’ volleyball team is easing into the summer months.
Though the temperatures in Montana are finally comfortable, some can’t wait for the fall.
There’s legitimate excitement about the new freshmen coming in, but Boyle is quick to point out the comeback of Taelyr Krantz and the addition of Hannah Dean, the All-American hooper who will pursue a graduate degree at Carroll, as major reasons her 2019 team will be deep and talented.
Krantz redshirted last season after tearing her ACL over the summertime. Her fiery leadership and skill at the net will be welcomed back. From the day she went down injured, Krantz has worked tirelessly to get herself back on the court.
“She was really looking forward to coming back,” Boyle said. “We’ve been in the gym a lot and she’s put in time. Her coming back as an outside hitter is really coming to make us better.”
Dean returns to the volleyball court to the first time since her standout days at Gardiner High and after capping off one of the most decorated careers for the Saints’ women’s basketball team. Dean moves on from the basketball team after becoming a first team All-American. She returns to a sport where she was she an all-state selection every year of high school and helped led her team to a 76-game win streak while winning three state championships.
“You add Hannah into the mix who can add some leadership and competitiveness to the court and a veteran experience that you don’t often come by,” Boyle said. “And add that to the already veteran team we’ll have with girls who have played quite a bit and we’re deep.”
When you view the credentials of Boyle’s incoming class, it’s easier to see why the coach is riding high. And she knows there’s an added pressure on herself and her players when she labels her team, but the class, simply, has a trajectory toward success.
“I know that it’s a lot of pressure right now on me and them because I’m saying it’s a great class, but I really, truly believe it’s a great class,” Boyle said. “I believe the next four years can be really great volleyball at Carroll College.”
Carroll signed seven incoming freshmen to bolster a team that went 19-15 last season. Carroll aims to punch a ticket to nationals this fall and may have the roster to do it.
Katherine McEuen, a 5-11 outside hitter from Mead High in Spokane, Washington, will come to the Saints after a strong prep career. She’s played for USA Volleyball since 2016 and earned her conference’s MVP award this past fall. She chose Carroll over offers from NCAA Division-I teams. She also comes to Carroll with a 4.0 GPA, to highlight a few of her achievements.
Sophia Spoja, like McEuen, also held NCAA D-I offers, but chose Carroll. The 6-foot outside hitter from Puyallup, Washington, also holds a league MVP to her name. She comes to Carroll after setting records at Puyallup High, including kills per game average (4.62), most kills at 507 and most attempts at 1,218.
And these aren’t all of their accolades.
“Sophia and Katherine are two who had Division-I offers and they still chose Carroll,” Boyle said. “To me that says a lot about Carroll. I think those girls want an experience beyond what volleyball provides and they’ll get that in Helena.”
Mara Lynch of Bozeman, Montana, could turn some heads with her vertical leap built into her 5-8 frame. She earned Montana AA Eastern MVP as a senior in Bozeman and became an all-state selection. Lynch also is an all-state track performer, among other noteworthy deeds.
“She was one of the best hitters in the AA in Montana,” Boyle said. “What she did at 5-8 is really impressive. I’m really excited to find out where she belongs in the mix.”
Out of Flathead High, Madison Boles also will bring a high level of play from Montana AA volleyball over to Carroll. The 6-foot outside hitter served as her team’s captain for the past two seasons while earning two all-conference selections and becoming the team’s MVP. She’ll also high jump for Carroll College.
Another dual-sport athlete for the Saints, Katie Rhodes figures to be a force at the net for Carroll. The 6-foot-2 middle hitter leaves Mt. Spokane as an accomplished player. She set Mt. Spokane’s record for blocks in a season and in a career. She’s helped power her team to second and third place finishes and a state championship this past fall.
“They’re going to be key in our success I believe,” Boyle said. “Katie Rhodes is doing PRs each week. I just think they have these benchmarks and they have surpassed them over and over. You hope that continues when they get here. You get here and surpass that next benchmark. They’re obviously girls who have set the mark high and are trying to exceed that.”
Kylie Kackman of Colfax, Washington, bolsters the Saints depth at setter. The 5-6 setter will give the Saints a lift when she gets on the court. She’s been a team captain and a co-MVP of her league and named all-conference three consecutive seasons. She stands out in the classroom with a 4.0 GPA, to highlight a few of her notables.
“Kackman right now is the No. 2 setter behind Ali Williams who set for us last year,” Boyle said.
And finally, Ellie Mead joins the Saints after serving as a middle hitter at Sunset High in Beaverton, Oregon. She served as her team’s captain and became an honorable mention all-conference performer during her junior and senior years.
“Ellie Mead comes to us out of a great program,” Boyle said. “There’s a long line of quality people who have come from Sunset High School.”
When you add it all up, and factor in the Saints return second team all-conference performer Ayla Carpenter, freshman of the year Lexi Mikkelsen and two all-freshmen performers in Paige Wollan and Ali Williams, the Saints are built to be competitive in 2019.