Playing the Portal Game

By Lincoln Arneal

It’s been less than two months since Texas defeated Louisville for the national championship in Omaha, but during that time, player movement has happened at a non-stop pace. 

Ohio State saw an exodus of talent after its season ended the same way it began – with a loss to Texas. Meanwhile, Penn State remade its team for Katie Schumacher-Cawley’s second season as head coach. The movement is not over as players will continue to find new homes during the second transfer window in May, plus a few key players are still in the portal looking for their next destination. 

A month into the spring semester, some of the dust has settled enough to take stock of the portal movement of several teams in the Big Ten and around the nation. These assessments do not consider incoming freshmen or players who have exhausted eligibility. We’ll take a more extensive review of roster changes come summer. 


Penn State

Gained from the portal: Mac Podraza, Gr., S, from Ohio State; Jess Mruzik, Jr., OH, from Michigan; Camryn Hannah, Jr., OH, from Clemson; Ally Van Eekeren, Gr., S, from High Point; Lina Perugini, Gr., L, from Coastal Carolina.

Lost to the portal: Katie Hurta, So., S/OPP, to Clemson; Erika Williams, So., MB/RS, undecided.

The Nittany Lions might be this year’s winner of the portal. They added Podraza, the Big Ten’s top setter from a year ago, who will upgrade the Nittany Lions’ attack. She could have an impact similar to that of former PSU player Gabby Blossom at San Diego. Van Eekeren was the Big South setter for the year, adding solid depth to the position. Mruzik is a two-time all-Big Ten performer and instantly becomes their best attacker. Camryn Hannah earned All-ACC second-team honors, and she should slide in at opposite, while Zoe Weatherington and Anjelina Starck compete for the other outside hitter spot. 


Gained: Temi Thomas-Ailara, Gr., OH, from Northwestern; Carter Booth, So., MB, from Minnesota.

Lost: Jade Demps, Jr., OH, to LSU; Liz Gregorski, Jr., OH, to Kansas State; Anna MacDonald, Gr., L/DS, to Dayton.

Is it possible for a team to have too many attackers? Even after losing Demps, the Badgers still have an impressive outside hitter group. All-American Thomas-Ailara joins Sarah Franklin, who transferred from Michigan State a year ago, and Julia Orzol, both juniors. Even after losing Danielle Hart in the middle, UW will be well-stocked. Booth will battle with Caroline Crawford, Anna Smrek and Devyn Robinson for court time, with the latter two also playing opposite. Even if Wisconsin sticks with a 6-2 system, someone will be left out of the regular rotation. But it’s good to be Kelly Sheffield and deal with having too much talent. 


Gained: Gabby Gonzales, Gr., OH, from Ohio State; Kara McGhee, Gr., MB, from Baylor; Onye Ofoegbu, Sr., MB, from UC Irvine

Lost: Kiari Robey, Jr., MB, to Florida State

The team that knocked out the Huskers has remade the middle of its lineup. After losing Robey to the portal, the Ducks added a pair of middle blockers in McGhee and Ofoeghbu, who were named all-conference in the Big 12 and Big West, respectively. Those two will compete with senior Karson Bacon for time in the middle. Oregon also found a replacement for Brooke Nuneviller in former Buckeye Gonzales. The Ducks should contend for the Pac-12 title with their other returning pieces. 



Gained: Merritt Beason, Jr., OPP, from Florida.

Lost: Anni Evans, Gr., S, undecided

The Huskers hit the portal quickly after its starting opposite hitter Whitney Lauenstein decided to step away from the sport. They found a ready-made replacement in Beason less than a week after the season ended. She will provide plenty of firepower, passing and leadership for the Huskers on the right pin. NU also loses Anni Evans but still has two scholarship setters on the roster. Evans hasn’t yet announced her next school but has been taking visits and will join her new program after she earns her undergrad degree in May. 


Gained: Jenna Wenaas, Jr., OH, from Minnesota.

Lost: Melanie Parra, Jr., OH, to TCU; DeAndra Pierce, So., MB, to Georgia Tech.

After going all in on the portal a year ago, the Longhorns took a much more measured approach this season. Wenaas is a solid addition. No one can replicate Logan Eggleston, but she’ll form an excellent attacking duo with Madisen Skinner. With Asjia O’Neal, Bella Bergmark and Molly Phillips returning, UT will put up a strong title defense. Parra provided quality depth last year and had a crucial kill in the national championship match but totaled just 64 kills on the season. Pierce only appeared in one match during two seasons.


Gained: Charitie Luper, Jr., OH, from UCLA.

Lost: Paige Morningstar, So., S, to Cal; Nena Mbonu, Gr., OH, to Houston; Sydni Schetnan, So., OH, to South Dakota State.

The national runners-up lost a lot of firepower from last year, but Luper will try to spark the offense next to Anna DeBeer. She averaged more than three kills per set for the Bruins last season. If Wahoo native Elle Glock can step in and run the offense, the Cardinals will fight for another ACC crown.


Ohio State

Gained: None

Lost: Mac Podraza; Gabby Gonzales; Kylie Murr, Gr., L, to Minnesota; Jenaiysa Moore, Gr., OH, to Tennessee; Adria Powell, Gr., MB, to Clemson

It was a rough off-season for the Buckeyes, who said goodbye to five seniors who elected to use their bonus year of eligibility elsewhere. OSU dealt with a brutal scholarship crunch which it hopes will be offset by’s No. 5 recruiting class which features five Top 100 prospects. 


Gained: Kylle Murr

Lost: Carter Booth, Jenna Wenaas

The Gophers found their replacement for CC McGraw with Murr, the Big Ten defensive player of the year last season. However, the attack took a step back, losing Booth and Wenaas. The latter was shifted to opposite hitter with the emergence of McKenna Wucherer. The good news for new coach Keegan Cook is Taylor Landfair is back. 


Gained: None

Lost: Mruzik, Jess Robinson, Gr., MB, to Duke; May Pertofsky, Gr., OPP, undecided


Gained: Julia Sangiacomo, Gr., OH, from Santa Clara.

Lost: Temi Thomas-Ailara, Hanna Lesiak, Gr., OH, to Long Beach State; Desiree Becker, Gr., MB, to UCLA; Grace Reininga, L/DS, undecided; Abryanna Cannon, Gr., OH/OPP, undecided.

It was a rough transfer season for the Wolverines and Wildcats. Michigan will get a hard reset under new coach Erin Virtue as it lost its top three attackers, who also doubled as the top blocker and second-best passer. Likewise, Northwestern will be without three of its top four attackers and best blocker. The path to the top half got a little more challenging for two teams that finished in the middle of the Big Ten pack. 

Still in the Portal

The best player left in the portal might be Texas Tech outside hitter Kenna Sauer. After earning All-Big 12 honors twice, she will look for a new home for her final year. Teams looking for help at the pins can look to outside hitter Iman Isanovic from Arizona State and USC opposite Emilia Weske, both of whom are looking for new homes.

At libero, Maryland’s Milan Gomillion and Missori’s Leandra Mangual-Duran could each boost a school’s back row. As mentioned above, Anni Evans and May Pertofsky are also looking for new homes. 

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