MARTIN, Tenn. – Skyhawk head volleyball coach Darrin McClure has announced five incoming freshmen who have signed National Letters of Intent to attend The University of Tennessee at Martin next fall.
Colleen Larson (Naperville, Ill.), Michelle McLaughlin (Bartlett, Ill.), Julia Devinney (Plano, Texas), Alisha Erves (Tyrone, Ga.) and Madison Wessling (Louisville, Ky.) will all have four years of eligibility to compete for the Skyhawks. Larson and McLaughlin committed to UT Martin in the early signing period.
“Last year’s recruiting class was very talented and this year’s class is the same,” McClure said. “This group of recruits is a special one. What makes me excited is that we are finally deep with talented players in multiple positions. With the talented and young core group we currently have the expectation is that these girls can help take us to the next level in the conference.”
Colleen Larson, L/DS, 5-5, Fr., Naperville, Ill. (Naperville North HS)
Larson is coming off a successful prep career at Naperville North High School under head coach Jennifer Urban. She scooped up 860 career digs, which ranks second in NNHS program history. Included in that total is 355 digs during her senior campaign, the fourth-highest single-season total in school history. Larson also boasted an impressive 2.2 passing mark during her high school career.
A two-time all-area and all-conference selection, Larson was named a “Top 50 Player to Watch” by the Chicago Sun-Times after she helped lead the Huskies to a 29-8 record and conference championship in 2011. That same season, she was named an honorable mention all-state selection.
“Colleen is a special player,” McClure said. “She might be the quickest player I have ever recruited. Chelsea Bowles and Colleen playing together in the back row is a pretty special combination. Colleen plays for Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Chicago and plays against great competition every day in practice. I have no doubt that she will make an impact on our team and this league.”
Michelle McLaughlin, OH, 5-10, Fr., Bartlett, Ill. (St. Francis HS)
McLaughlin joins the Skyhawk program out of St. Francis High School in Wheaton, Ill., which is one of the all-time winningest programs in the state of Illinois. McLaughlin played for the legendary head coach Peg Kopec at SFHS, compiling 362 kills and 143 service points in her storied career.
Last fall, McLaughlin helped guide the Spartans to a 37-5 record and Class 3A state championship, capturing the school’s first state title since 2006. That capped off a remarkable run for McLaughlin, who was part of four conference championship squads during her tenure at SFHS, including a third-place finish at state in 2011.
“Michelle was the first player I recruited in this class,” McClure said. “From the first time I watched her play, I knew I liked her. She reminds me a lot of our current player Kelly Hogan, who is the kind of kid that works hard all the time. Literally, Michelle will run through a wall to pursue a ball. Additionally, she is a gifted offensive player – she sees the floor well and hits the spots the defense gives her.”
Julia Devinney, MB, 6-2, Fr., Plano, Texas (Plano West Senior HS)
Devinney prepped at Plano West Senior High School under head coach Brittany Bridge, helping lead the team to a 26-19 record in 2012. During Devinney’s playing career, the Wolves reached the 5A state quarterfinals (2012) and 5A state semifinals (2010).
Also playing outside hitter throughout her high school career, Devinney amassed 143 kills on a .227 attack percentage during her senior season – racking up second team all-district accolades. She slammed down a season-high 12 kills on Oct. 19 against rival Plano Central.
“Julia comes to us from Texas and from a super competitive club scene,” McClure said. “When you walk in the gym at a Texas club tournament it is very evident that there are great players in the gym – this is the type of environment she comes from. Playing for former Tennessee assistant coach Mike Minnis has helped prepare her for college. Julia brings much-needed size to our lineup and a really heavy arm. Coming from great club coaching and a competitive team, she will make the transition to Division-I seamlessly. She fits in great with this team and is expected to contribute right away.”
Alisha Erves, MB, 5-11, Fr., Tyrone, Ga. (Sandy Creek HS)
Erves is coming off back-to-back Georgia state championships at Sandy Creek High School playing for head coach Paul Collins. The Patriots brought home the AAAA state championship in 2012, AAA state title in 2011 and were AAA state runner-up in 2010.
Erves and the Patriots went 44-7 last year, boosted by a 21-match winning streak. She finished in the top-five in the state with 122 kills and came up big in the state finals against St. Pius X, turning away a match-high three blocks.
“We are excited about Alisha,” McClure said. “She plays for the same club team that former UT Martin graduate Taylor Noland coaches for. Alisha is expected to compete for a middle blocker spot in the fall and I believe she will fit in well with this team. She is athletic and has a very high ceiling of potential at the next level. I can’t wait to see her progress.”
Madison Wessling, OH, 5-10, Fr., Louisville, Ky. (Sacred Heart Academy)
Wessling comes to UT Martin out of Sacred Heart Academy, the alma mater of Skyhawk assistant coach Julia Noe. Playing for head coach Eric Garvey, Wessling was part of a Valkyries squad that was responsible for three straight district titles from 2010-12, earning the 2012 championship after a 26-12 overall record.
Wessling earned first team all-region accolades in 2012 and was a second team all-Catholic honoree as well. She also garnered first team all-district honors as a junior in 2011.
“Madison is a really good player,” McClure said. “I have watched her play since she was 15 or 16 years old and it has been fun to see her grow as a player. The exciting thing about Madison is that she keeps getting better. I watched her at JO Nationals this past year and have watched her a few times this club season and she continues to get better. She has the potential to be an anchor for us at the outside hitter position for years to come.”
These five future Skyhawks will make their collegiate debuts on Friday, Aug. 30 when UT Martin travels to a tournament in Peoria, Ill. hosted by Bradley University.