Though COVID-19 has pushed back the beginning of college volleyball season, USI is still on the recruiting trail picking up some valuable members.
The Screagles have four incoming freshmen who have signed their national letters of intent, and will be joining the volleyball squad in the fall.
One of those freshman happens to be a local product, as Reitz' Evie Dunan will be staying close to home. The all-SIAC member helped her squad capture a sectional title this past season, as is ready to take her talents to the next level.
For more information on USI's newest recruiting class, please read the official press release below.
EVANSVILLE, Ind.—University of Southern Indiana Volleyball announced that four incoming freshmen have signed national letters of intent to compete for Head Coach Randi Raff's Screaming Eagles during the 2021-22 academic year.
That list includes 5-foot-9 defensive specialist Anna Ballengee (Montgomery, Indiana), 5-foot-9 middle hitter Paris Downing (Avon, Indiana), 6-foot right side/outside hitter Evie Duncan (Evansville, Indiana), and 5-foot-10 setter Carly Sobieralski (Indianapolis, Indiana).
Anna Ballengee is currently a senior at Barr Reeve High School in Montgomery, Indiana, where she has earned letters in volleyball, basketball, tennis and track & field.
As a senior in 2020, Ballengee racked up 540 kills and 308 digs to lead the Vikings to their second state championship in three years and first at the IHSAA Class 2A level–she helped BRHS to the IHSAA Class A title as a sophomore in 2018.
A four-time All-State and four-time AVCA All-Region honoree, Ballengee finished her career with 1,671 kills, 1,027 digs and was the Washington Herald Area Player of the Year as well as an Academic All-State award winner in 2020.
Ballengee has competed for the Circle City Volleyball Club and is currently a member of the Evansville United Volleyball Club.
"Anna is a hardnosed player who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty and do the work," Raff said. "She has a quiet ferocity on the court and at 5-9, she is long for a libero and has extended defensive range that, oftentimes, isn't seen in her position.
"Ann is a steady, consistent presence on the court, which is a valuable asset in a momentum-driven game like volleyball," Raff continued. "Having had the experience of carrying a heavy load as an outside hitter for her state championship high school team, she understands how to be at her best when her best is required. Anna adds a whole new dimension to our libero position."
Paris Downing is in her final year at Avon High School in Avon, Indiana, where she has earned varsity letters in volleyball.
During her senior year, Downing racked up 1.3 blocks per set and 119 total blocks (according to Maxpreps.com). She also tallied 133 kills (1.4 kps) to help AHS to a 21-9 overall record on the year.
An Academic All-State honoree, Downing finished her two varsity seasons at AHS with 198 career blocks and 241 kills. She is a member of the Circle City Volleyball Club, where she has competed since 2016.
"Paris has all the makings of a great middle," Raff said. "She is consistently hardworking, play in and play out, and has a quick first step; she's a player that is a perpetual student of the game and is eager to learn."
Raff said "despite being slightly undersized at 5-9, Paris is an imposing presence defensively and plays much bigger than her height. She has an impeccable sense to be able to not only touch a lot of balls on the block, but the physical strength to finish many of them.
"Paris always seeks to bring her team together and brings a buoyant energy to the court," Raff continued. "We can't wait to have her on the squad."
Evie Duncan is finishing up her prep career at Reitz High School in Evansville, Indiana, where she earned All-Conference honors after helping the Panthers to a sectional title and the regional finals. Her efforts helped RHS to its first-ever win over perennial powerhouse Castle High School in the semifinals of the sectional tournament, ending the Knights' state-record run of 26 straight sectional titles.
A member of the Evansville United Volleyball Club, Duncan spent her first three seasons of prep volleyball at Norris City-Omaha-Enfield High School in Norris City, Illinois, where she competed in volleyball as well as track & field and was a member of three sectional championship teams.
Duncan, a three-time All-Conference and All-South performer at NCOEHS, helped lead the Cardinals to regional and semi-state titles as well as the semifinals of the IHSA Class A tournament.
"We are elated to have garnered a commitment from Evie, who will be the first local Evansville metro high school player USI Volleyball has had on the roster since 2012 (Emily Diedrich)," Raff said. "Evie has a very high ceiling, trains hard and is a hungry learner. We are just now beginning to see her tap into the player she can become."
Raff went on to say that "she is a physically imposing presence at the net with a good sense for blocking. Evie is a competitor with a killer instinct, who gives energy to her teammates and, when given the chance, does what needs to be done to win.
"Predominantly training on the right side, Evie adds dimension to that position because of her ability to pass and play the back row," Raff concluded.
Carly Sobieralski is currently a senior at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis, where she has competed in volleyball and tennis during her prep career.
An Academic All-State honoree as a senior in 2020, Sobieralski was a three-time All-Conference and All-County honoree and was an Indiana Junior All-Star in 2019. She finished her career with 2,782 career assists, 1094 digs, 413 kills and 137 aces; and was recently named AVCA High School All-Region 5 as well as All-District.
A member of The Academy Volleyball Club, where she earned a pair of St. Louis Presidents Day Classic All-Tournament team honors as well as 2019 MVP accolades, Sobieralski also has put together an impressive tennis resume. She helped her No. 1 doubles team to a sectional and regional title as well as a runner-up finish at the state tournament as a sophomore in 2019.
"Carly is another excellent Indiana player we fought to keep in-state," Raff said. "She brings a quiet, steely nature to the setting position, which offers stability and calm to her teammates on the court.
"We found Carly to be highly instinctual in nature; she has the vision and ability to nudge her hitters into just the right place to score, which is a high-level skill that is hard to find in young players," Raff continued. "She has fast hands and gets the ball out quickly to the hitters, which can further intensify an offense."
Raff said "we are excited to train Carly and push her game even further. She is an excellent addition to our setter group."