Parkland College Cobras Volleyball freshmen Rachel Verdun (19), Ryleigh Warfel (2) and Brooke Norder (20) were named 2018 NJCAA Division II All-Americans on Tuesday afternoon by league's governing body.
Verdun and Warfel earned First Team recognition, while Norder was selected as Honorable Mention. The freshmen All-American trio marks the first time Parkland Volleyball has had three freshmen selected in the same season.
"I'm thrilled for Ryleigh, Rachel and Brooke that the NJCAA saw in these three young women what I saw throughout the year," said Head Coach Cliff Hastings. "The three of them made a solid nucleus for our team and grew as players and teammates throughout the entire season. Ryleigh stands out for her court presence and her high-level play in all facets of the game. Rachel stands out for her decision-making and ability to redefine what a setter is by being heavily offensive as well. Brooke brings outstanding ball control and one of the toughest serves we saw all year.
"They are very deserving of this prestigious award, and probably the best part about each of them, is that they would immediately point to their teammates as deserving of the award as well. Shelby's leadership, Gabby's work ethic and the list of high-level attributes each of them brought to our team this year made us the successful group we were."
Of the 11 freshmen selected among the 30-player Division II All-America team, three wore the Green and Yellow this fall, including two of the four freshmen First Team selections.
The Parkland freshmen trio made waves in their first collegiate seasons, helping lead the Cobras to a National Runner-Up finish and Champions of District J and the Mid-West Athletic Conference. Totaling the most single-season wins in program history, these freshmen also extended the Parkland streak to six straight seasons with at least 50 wins.
Together, Verdun, Warfel and Norder mark the third time Parkland volleyball has had three All-Americans in the same season, each coming in the last four seasons under Coach Hastings. The First Team accolades for Verdun and Warfel mark the second duo of freshman All-Americans in program history, joining the 2015 pair of Laura Gross and Sofi Kelemete. Verdun and Warfel also extend the Cobras' streak of multiple First Team All-Americans to five straight seasons, dating back to 2014.
Verdun, the Region 24 Player of the Year, quickly put herself among the best setters in the country and the only freshman setter to be selected as an All-American. Hailing from Edwardsville, Ill., and Edwardsville High School, Verdun led Division II in total assists (1,611) and ranked second in assists per set (11.11), while also sprinkling in 1.31 kills per set. Also contributing defensively, Verdun led the Cobras with 19 double-doubles – each coming with double-digit digs – and ranked in the top-60 in the NJCAA DII with 76 block assists. Averaging 11.9 assists per set in the NJCAA Tournament, Verdun was named to the NJCAA DII All-Tournament team. Verdun's All-America honor marks the third straight year a Cobra setter has been selected, joining Leah Anderson (2017) and Jamie Johnson (2016).
Verdun's biggest beneficiary, outside hitter Warfel, ranked among the best terminators in her first season at Parkland. With 463 kills on the year, Warfel ranked in the top-20 nationally, while her 3.38 kills per set ranked in the top 35. However, the Downs, Ill., product saved her best volleyball for the season's final month, as she hit .329 in the month of November. At NJCAA Nationals, the first-year Cobra averaged 14.4 points per match and 4.25 kills per set on her way to being named to the NJCAA Championships All-Tournament team. Highlighting her weekend was 17 kills in the National Semifinal against No. 3 Johnson County and her 15th double-double of the season in the National Championship match against No. 1 Coffeyville. Overall this season, the six-rotation outside hitter led the Cobras in kills, kills per set, total attacks and points, while also finishing second on the team in digs and third in service aces. Warfel joins 2017 First Team All-American Fiapai'pai Willis and 2015 Second Team All-American Lizzy Bernard.
Rounding out the three Cobra honorees, Norder becomes the first Parkland libero since 2010 (Suzie Jean) to earn All-American honors. One of two Cobras that hails from outside the Land of Lincoln, the Grand Rapids, Mich., product earned her Honorable Mention accolade as one of the best back-row defenders in the NJCAA. Finishing the season ranked third in total digs (834) and 12th in digs per set (5.91), Norder had 16 matches of 20-plus digs, including four with at least 30 digs, despite the Cobras winning 45 of its 59 matches in straight sets. After recording two 38-dig performances in the same September weekend, the first-year Cobra earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Two-Year College Defensive Player of the Week. In addition to her lockdown defensive work, Norder added a strong serve to Parkland's rotation, leading the team with 66 aces that placed her in the top-25 nationally. Both her work on defense and from the service line added up to being named First Team All-Region following Parkland's District J Championship.
Three Parkland Volleyball All-Americans in the Same Season:
2015: Laura Gross (1st), Sofi Kelemete (1st), Lizzy Barnard (HM)
2016: Laura Gross (1st), Sofi Kelemete (1st), Jamie Johnson (2nd)
2018: Ryleigh Warfel (1st), Rachel Verdun (1st), Brooke Norder (HM)
[Article by Chad Beyler]