Dec. 10, 2010
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern head volleyball coach Keylor Chan today announced the signing of five future student-athletes to National Letters of Intent. The quintet will arrive in Evanston in the summer of 2011 and begin competing for the Wildcats beginning the 2011 season next August.
"I'm extremely excited about this incoming class of Wildcats," said coach Chan. "These are special players that have made their mark on their respective high school and club teams for a number of years and we are excited to get them on campus this summer and welcome them to the Wildcat family."
Yewande Akanbi (Houston, Texas/Dawson), Maggie Burnham (Toledo, Ohio/St. Ursula Academy), Hannah Crippen (Plainfield, Ill./North), Caroline Niedospial (Chicago, Ill./Marist) and Kirsten Watson (Orlando, Fla./Olympia) comprise Northwestern's class of 2015. The group consists of two outside hitters (Akanbi and Watson), a middle blocker (Burnham), a setter (Crippen) and a libero (Niedospial).
Northwestern is coming off one of the best seasons in program history in 2010. The Wildcats posted a final record of 20-13, the second 20-win season under coach Chan, while finishing tied for seventh in the Big Ten with a 9-11 mark. The Wildcats, who knocked off five top-20 opponents over the course of the season, spent eight weeks ranked among the nation's top-25 teams and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, matching the best finish in program history.
Northwestern's Incoming 2011 Class
||Toledo, Ohio/St. Ursula Academy
5-10 • Outside Hitter
High School: Four year letterwinner at Dawson High School ... Finished her career with 995 kills, 683 digs, 105 service aces and 82 blocks ... Two-year team captain ... Two-time first team All-District 24-4A selection (2008, 2010) and Offensive Player of the Year as a senior ... District Newcomer of the Year (2007) ... Helped lead the Eagles to both the district and area championship in 2010 ... Named to PrepVolleyball.com 100 Senior Aces list ... 2008 AAU national championship All-American ... Two-time Houston Chronicle Female Athlete of the Week ... Coached by Megan LaBernz and Lori McLaughlin ... Competed for Absolute Volleyball Academy of Texas club team for three years ... Team finished in the top-10 in the open division at Junior Nationals ... 2010 Northeast Qualifer gold medalist ... Captured the silver medal at the 2010 Lone Star Classic after winning the bronze in 2009 ... National honor society member ... Student body vice president ... Junior class secretary ... 2007-08 Principal's Award recipient ... Among the top seven percent of her class.
Personal: Born Yewande Lamlat Akanbi ... Daughter of Bola and Lola Akanbi ... Chose Northwestern over Baylor, Rice, Boston College and TCU ... Plans to major in pre-med or neuroscience.
Chan's Thoughts: "Yewande is one of the most athletic players in the class of 2011. She is a dynamic athlete with the power and skill necessary to compete for playing time immediately for our program. As she develops we believe she can be a six rotation player that is capable of scoring the ball from the front and back row."
6-3 • Middle Blocker
Toledo, Ohio/St. Ursula Academy
High School: Four year letterwinner and three year team captain for St. Ursula Academy ... Helped lead the Arrows to the 2010 Division I state championship with a 28-1 record ... Also helped St. Ursuline capture the district championship in 2008 and 2009 ... A second team all-state selection as a senior after being named a third team selection as a junior ... First team All-Toledo City League in 2009 and 2010 after being named a second team selection in 2008 ... Three time All-City first team ... Named to the Under Armour All-American watch list ... Finalist for Old Newsboys Player of the Year ... Participated in 2010 district and state all-star matches ... Coached by John Buck ... Member of Toledo Volleyball Club for six seasons, qualifying for nationals in 2008, 2009 and 2010 ... Also played basketball as a freshman ... National Honor Society member ... Student council secretary ... President's List member.
Personal: Born Margaret Mary Burnham ... Daughter of Blake Burnham and Colleen Dooley ... Father played basketball at Toledo before competing professionally in Europe ... Plans to major in journalism.
Chan's Thoughts: "Maggie has the potential to be a tremendous middle in the Big Ten. She has the height needed to control opposing offenses and is exceptional running the slide attack. These skills are necessary for middles in our conference and will be an asset to our team during her time at Northwestern."
6-0 • Setter
High School: Three year letterwinner and team captain at Plainfield North High School ... Posted 231 kills, 201 digs and 39 blocks in her senior year ... Helped lead the Tigers to the Southwest Prairie Conference championship in 2009, finishing second in 2010 and third in 2008 ... Named conference MVP as a senior ... All-Conference selection and All-State honorable mention ... Team MVP ... 2010 Under Armour All-American honorable mention selection ... Coached by Tracey Marshall ... Member of Sports Performance club team for four years, finishing third at the AAU national tournament ... Also competed for Avalanche club team for two years, finishing fifth at AAU's in the 16-Club Division ... High honor roll member.
Personal: Born Hannah Elizabeth Crippen ... Daughter of Bob and Gina Crippen ... Chose Northwestern over Georgia Tech and Miami (Ohio) ... Plans to major in biomedical engineering.
Chan's Thoughts: "Hannah is a gifted setter with the athletic ability to better every situation on the volleyball court. She is a tall setter with great mobility and set location. All these attributes will help her transition easily from high school and club volleyball into our program."
5-7 • Libero
High School: Four year letterwinner at Marist High School ... Team captain ... Helped lead the Redhawks to the 2010 East-Suburban Catholic Conference and regional championships ... Finished her career with 1,804 digs and 118 service aces, including 728 digs in her senior season ... 2010 ESCC Conference Player of the Year ... Second team All-American ... First team All-State selection ... Chicago Tribune and Champaign News-Gazette first team all-state selection ... Southtown Star Player of the Year and two time all-area selection ... Three-time All-ESCC selection ... Named team MVP following her sophomore, junior and senior season ... Coached by Natalie Holder ... Played for First Alliance/Celtic Force club teams for eight years ... Team finished third at AAU in 2009 with a fifth-place finish at USA VB in 2010 ... Named an AAU All-American in 2009 ... Three time Dean's List member.
Personal: Born Caroline Mary Niedospial ... Nickname is "Carks" ... Daughter of Dave and Jenny Niedospial ... Sister Sarah was a 2000 state champion and played collegiate volleyball at Eastern Illinois ... Chose Northwestern over Ohio, Ohio State and Illinois ... Anticipated major is undecided.
Chan's Thoughts: "Caroline is arguably the best libero in the Midwest if not the nation in the class of 2011. She is a local talent that will continue our tradition of libero's from the Chicago Land area. Caroline has the skill, instincts, and training to help our program immediately and we are excited about her addition to our already strong backcourt."
6-2 • Outside Hitter
High School: Five year letterwinner at Olympia High School ... Team captain ... Helped lead the Titans to the 2008 state championship and the district championship in 2007 and 2010 ... All-Central Florida selection ... All-Metro team selection ... Under Armour All-American watch list ... Named to PrepVolleyball.com Top-50 Recruits ... Two-time team MVP (2009 and 2010) ... Coached by Mitch Sadowsky ... Also ran track for two seasons at Olympia ... Member of OVA 18 Asics club team for seven years ... Team finished second at Kansas City Open Qualifier ... National Honor Society member ... Also a member of National Science Honor Society ... Student government secretary.
Personal: Born Kirsten Antoinette Watson ... Daughter of Brian and Robin Watson ... Related to Stefan Humphries who was an offensive lineman on the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl championship team ... Chose Northwestern over Duke, San Diego, Ohio State, Illinois, Georgia Tech and Southern California ... Plans to major in journalism.
Chan's Thoughts: "Kirsten has the potential to be a dominant front court player for our program. We believe Kirsten will become a primary point scoring player for us as she has vast potential to grow in both skill and athleticism during her collegiate years. Without question we believe Kirsten will earn her way onto the court quickly in her career."
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