Still in search of those players who will help fourth-year coach Warren Thomas in his quest turn the Southwestern Illinois College women’s volleyball program into a NJCAA Region 24 contender, the plans are to go smaller next fall.
Thomas, who guided SWIC to a 12-21 record in 2014, plans to go with a 12-player roster in the upcoming season instead of the 14-player roster the Blue Storm has utilized in the past.
“My goal is to recruit the best local players that I can. The best players are all very talented and when you weed out the best of the best, you are still going to have those supplemental players who will have an impact on your program,” Thomas said. “I’m very happy with the young ladies that we have been able to sign. It’s a good group.
“With just the 12 players, I think you have a better chance of 100 percent involvement all of the time instead of the 50 to 75 percent. Like I said, I really like the student-athletes we’ve brought in for next year.”
Heading the list of talented local recruits are Carrie Rakers of Wesclin and Anisa Al-Bori from New Athens.
Al-Bori, a 5-foot-8 middle blocker, is already familiar with SWIC. She is a member of the Right Start Program, which allows high school students the opportunity to earn college credits while still attending high school. Al-Bori is a gifted three-sport athlete who helped lead the Yellow Jackets to a fourth-place finish at the Class A State Tournament two years ago and sle also was the point guard on a New Athens basketball team which finished 28-2 this past season.
“Anisa is an excellent student and just an exceptional athlete,” Thomas said. “She’s played and played well in big game situations. You can’t teach that. She’ll be a big part of our program next year.”
Anne Britton is a 5-7 setter who played at O’Fallon High and will combine with sophomore Julia Billhartz to hopefully give the Blue Storm depth and experience at that very important position.
Thomas is also bringing in a pair of solid outside hitters in Caitlyn Milligan from Rochester High and Mia Reed from nearby Waterloo.
Milligan, whose twin sister Michaela, is also a new member of the Blue Storm program, was first seen at a club volleyball tournament by Thomas two years ago and, after a long recruiting process, she has chosen to attend SWIC.
“I was very impressed with the way Caitlyn played when I first saw her two years ago and her dad and I have spoken several times since then,” Thomas said. “What I really liked was her athleticism and that fact that she played at a high level on a top-notch club volleyball team.”
Neither Caitlyn or Michaela are that tall (both are 5-7) but they can both jump well and are good athletes, Thomas said.
Thomas said that Michaela Milligan will be usd in several roles for the Blue Storm this season.
Reed, a 5-8 outside hitter is recovering a from a knee injury, but is expected back soon. A gifted athlete, Thomas said Reed first drew his attention at the regional tournament this year and is another talented two-sport athlete.
Rakers was a Class 1-2A first-team selection on the Belleville News-Democrat all-area basketball team after leading the Warriors to one of the finest seasons in recent memory. The 6-foot Rakers will be used as a middle blocker.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.