The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament kicked off Wednesday with first-round matchups. Undefeated No. 1 seed Wisconsin is projected to win it all, with Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas rounding out the top four.

As the event gets underway, we’ve compiled a list of six players we think will lead their teams deep in the tournament and help them contend for the national title.

1. Dana Rettke, Middle Blocker, Wisconsin

Bio: 6-foot-8 senior from Riverside, Ill. 2017 2018, 2019 AVCA First Team All-American. 2017 AVCA Freshman of the Year. 2019-2020 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year.

2020-21 stats
Total kills: 138
Hitting percentage: .456
Total blocks: 70

This season, Rettke has proven once again that she is a force to be reckoned with at the net. With 263 kill attempts, 138 kills and only 18 errors, she is an incredibly efficient offensive weapon. Defensively, she’s recorded 70 blocks since the start of the season, a product of her 6-8 stature and lateral speed at the net.

2. Stephanie Samedy, Opposite Hitter, Minnesota

Bio: 6-2 senior from Clermont, Fla. 2020 Big-10 Player of the Year. 2017, 2018 AVCA First Team All-American. First Minnesota freshman ever to receive First Team All-American honors.

2020-21 stats
Total kills: 259
Hitting percentage: .278
Total blocks: 47
Total digs: 158

Samedy is unbelievably fun to watch. The newly crowned Big 10 Player of the Year can jump out of the gym and has a wicked cross-swing (which is very hard to do as a right-handed opposite hitter). A go-to player for the Gophers, Samedy has taken 668 total offensive attempts and has capitalized on 259 of them while committing just 73 hitting errors. If she’s having a bad day on offense, she’s able to make up for it on defense with strong blocks and the ability to dig balls in the backcourt.

3. Yossiana Pressley, Outside Hitter, Baylor

Bio: 6-0 senior from Cypress, Texas. 2019 AVCA National Player of the Year. 2019 ESPNW National Player of the Year. 2019 AVCA First Team All-American.

2020-21 stats
Total kills: 447
Hitting percentage: .247
Total blocks: 55
Total digs: 193

If you find yourself playing volleyball against Pressley, you should be scared. She’s only 6-feet tall, but she makes up for it by jumping higher, hanging for longer and hitting the ball harder (and faster) than most other college players. She’s a dual threat who can kill the ball from the front and back row and is just as impressive on defense.

4. Logan Eggleston, Outside Hitter, Texas

Bio: 6-0 junior from Brentwood, Tenn. 2019 AVCA Second Team All-American. 2018 Big 12 Freshman of the Year. 2020 three-time Big-12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

2020-21 stats
Total kills: 379
Hitting percentage: .333
Total blocks: 42
Total digs: 205
Service aces: 41

Eggleston is a key player for four-seed Texas. The two-time All-American took 873 swings this season, racking up 379 kills for the Longhorns. She’s aggressive behind the service line, as evidenced by her 40 aces, and dug over 200 balls on defense. Eggleston has the tools to lead a balanced Longhorn team deep into the tournament.

5. Lauren Stivrins, Middle Blocker, Nebraska

Bio: 6-4 senior from Scottsdale, Ariz. 2018 AVCA First Team All-American. 2019 AVCA Second Team All-American. Ranked third in the Big Ten in 2019 with a .412 hitting percentage during conference play.

2020-21 stats
Total kills: 181
Hitting percentage: .471
Total blocks: 61

Stivrins is one of the best middle blockers in the country and critical to the success of five-seed Nebraska. She’s quick on offense and has a good “volleyball IQ,” meaning she’s able to see the court and anticipate the next play before it happens. With 181 kills, and only 33 errors on 315 kill attempts this season, Stivrins is incredibly efficient at the net, opening up opportunities for the Huskers’ outside and opposite hitters to score.

6. Madison Lilley, Setter, Kentucky

Bio: 5-11 senior from Overland Park, Kent. 2017, 2018, 2019 AVCA Second Team All-American. 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year. Named Gatorade Player of the Year in high school.

2020-21 stats
Assists: 791
Total digs: 153
Total blocks: 47
Total kills: 47

Recently named the 2021 SEC Player of the Year, Lilley was integral to the Wildcats winning the conference championship and securing the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With 791 assists on the season, Lilley has excellent court vision and the ability to spread the Wildcats’ offense across the net. If Kentucky is going to advance to its first Final Four in program history, the three-time All-American will play a huge role in getting them there.

Tune in: Tournament matches will be streamed on ESPN3, with the Final Four airing on ESPN2.

  • First round: April 14, ESPN3
  • Second round: April 15, ESPN3
  • Regional Semifinals: April 18, ESPN3/U
  • Regional Finals: April 19, ESPN3/U
  • Semis: April 22, ESPN2
  • National Championship: April 24, ESPN2