CARBONDALE — SIU volleyball coach Kari Thompson unveiled her first recruiting class Monday, with seven high school seniors and one junior college transfer.
Thompson signed five outside hitters, one libero, one setter and one middle blocker.
"We are excited to welcome this talented incoming class to our Saluki family," Thompson said in a statement. "We expect all eight to compete and have a positive impact on the future of our program."
SIU went 6-23 overall and 5-13 in the Missouri Valley Conference in Thompson's first season. The Salukis finished seventh in the Valley and missed the conference tournament, which takes the top-six teams, for the first time since 2011. SIU's six wins were its lowest since going 5-21 under Sonya Locke in 1999.
The Salukis could return four starters, including setter Alayna Martin, but lost top defensive specialists Ashley Edelen and Gabriella Shepherd. Laura Rojas, a 5-foot-4 libero from Hillsborough Community College, signed after helping the Hawks to a 43-20-1 record in her two seasons. A 2017 NJCAA all-academic first team selection, Rojas had 225 digs (2.14 per set) and 170 assists (1.62 per set) last season for a 22-11-1 squad.
Cecily Jester (5-9, right-side hitter, New Castle, Indiana), Jillian Kavalauskas (5-10, Jones College Prep in Chicago), Kaitlyn Kluge (5-9, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin), Jordyn McVicar (5-10, Elgin) and Kat Wagner (5-10, Noblesville, Indiana) signed as outside hitters.
Jester hit .263 with 253 kills to help New Castle High School to its first state title since 2007 this year. The first team all-state pick by the Indiana High School Volleyball Coaches Association helped the Trojans go 34-6. Kavalauskas helped Jones College Prep to a 28-8 mark and its first conference title in 10 years. A four-year starter and two-time team MVP, she played club volleyball for Chicago Elite. Kluge finished her senior year with 404 kills, 344 digs, 34 aces and a .403 hitting efficiency for a 31-10 club that reached the WIAA Division I state semifinals. A second team all-state pick, she was the 2017 Classic Eight Conference co-player of the year.
McVicar only played one year of high school volleyball before beginning to train with her club team, Top Flight VBC, full time. Wagner, a member of the National Honor Society and a 2017 academic all-state selection, helped Hamilton Southeastern High School to a 25-9 record last season.
Rossi, SIU's only setter in the class, helped Grand Rapids High School to a 71-20 record with three Section 7AA finals. Rossi dished out a school-record 876 assists her senior year and finished with 2,557 career assists, another school record. Valek, the only middle blocker in the class, helped Waubonsie Valley High School to a 24-14 mark last season. Valek's club team, Sports Performance Volleyball, finished fifth in the 18 classic division of the 2017 AAU junior national volleyball championship.