Per UGF Athletics Department:
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The 2017 Lady Argo Volleyball Recruiting Class will bring 10 new members into the program, in what the coaching staff believes could be one of the most talented classes in program history. A class of big numbers, as well as big talent, will be crucial for UGF, with the team needing to replace its digs leader, blocks leader, assists leader, and kills leader from 2016.
The incoming class is made up of 8 freshmen and two transfers. Three of those incoming freshmen come from Montana roots while two were teammates in California. The remaining five come from different states including Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.
"We are extremely excited about this recruiting class because of the high level of talent, character, and passion that each player brings. Our staff spent a lot of time traveling all over the country to find players with the intangibles that would be a good fit here at UGF," Coach Arunas Duda said. "Several of these players have the potential to not only make an immediate impact on our roster but have a chance to make a splash in the conference as well. I couldn't be more pleased about this group of competitors joining our team."
Sydney Andersen | 6'3" | OH/RS | Placentia, Calif.
Andersen's NCAA DI talent, which led her to initially commit to the University of San Francisco, will not only have an immediate impact on the Lady Argo offense but could have a significant presence in the Frontier Conference.
Andersen was a three-sport athlete at El Dorado High School, competing in volleyball, water polo, and softball. In volleyball, she led her team as captain for two years, earned First Team All-League recognition her junior and senior seasons, and won California Interscholastic Federation honors. She holds the highest hitting percentage in a game (.822) at El Dorado and was named MVP of the league.
Along with high school volleyball, high school softball, and playing with club volleyball team, Goldenwest, Andersen was also a star for the El Dorado water polo team. As a sophomore, Andersen earned First-team All-League recognition with the Golden Eagles and was named Team MVP.
"I chose UGF because I loved the atmosphere and vision for the upcoming season," Andersen said why she decided to commit to UGF. "The campus and surrounding area felt like a second home. I look forward to being challenged in class as well as on the court."
Jada Brown | 5'11" | MB/RS | Kent, Wash.
Middle blocker and right side hitter from Kent, Washington, Jada Brown, adds depth and positional versatility to the Lady Argo front row. Brown played for Kentwood High School and the Kent Junior Volleyball Club, in an accomplished high school career.
With the Kentwood Conquerors, she was a part of the 2015 South Puget Sound League 4A North League Championship Team and a part of a fourth place finish in the Washington State Tournament in 2016. As an individual, Brown earned All-League Honorable Mention as a junior and was named Second-Team All-League as a senior.
With the Kent Junior Volleyball Club, Brown was named to the Puget Sound High-Performance volleyball team in 2015.
Brown's ability to play effective defense at the net and versatile hitting ability from both the middle and the right gives the incoming freshman an ability to compete for playing time on both the middle and the right side.
"It is the perfect fit for me not only academically and athletically, but everyone is so genuine and kind," Brown said as to why she chose UGF. "I can't wait to start in the fall."
Academically, Brown has already started college courses at Green River College and will be studying biology at UGF.
Cydney Finberg | 5'11" | Setter | Columbia Falls, Mont.
Kicking off the 2017 Lady Argo Recruiting Class was Columbia Falls basketball and volleyball star, Cydney Finberg. The 5'11" setter signed in late August of 2016, becoming the first official member of the incoming class.
Finberg holds Columbia Falls High School's all-time records for assists in a career and a single season, as well as most career aces. She helped her team win the 2015 Class A State Championship and is a three-time All-Conference player, All-State player, and Conference MVP.
Along with her volleyball success, she was also a part of the Class A 2016-17 Championship basketball team at Columbia Falls. She finished her basketball career as a three-time All-State and four-time First Team All-Conference player. On top of her on-court accomplishments, Finberg is also a stellar student, finishing her high school career with a 4.17 weighted GPA.
Right away, Finberg will add depth to the setting position. While it may take some time to adjust to the difference in speed from Class A ball in Montana to the NAIA game, she has the ability to develop into a solid player for the Lady Argos.
"Every aspect about UGF just felt right. The coaching staff and players are so welcoming and it's a perfect academic fit," Finberg said. "It is a great offer and opportunity, and I'm so excited to become an Argo!"
Melissa Gonzalez | 6'0" | RS | Lovelock, Nev.
The first transfer to join the Lady Argos 2017 Recruiting Class was 6'0" Melissa Gonzalez from Cabrillo College. Gonzalez played for the Seahawks as a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore, helping the team win the Coast Conference both years, a California State Championship in 2015, and the All-Coast Conference North Division in 2016. Throughout her two years at Cabrillo the team's combined record was an outstanding 58-5.
Before Cabrillo, Gonzalez spent one year at Lassen College, and before that she lettered in volleyball for three years at Pershing Country High School in Lovelock, Nevada. As a Mustang, she earned three All-Conference nods and the 2014 Northern Nevada Division III MVP.
With two years of eligibility left, Gonzalez's blocking skills and heavy arm swing will add to the Lady Argos offensive and defense alongside senior Mariah Diaz. She will be pursuing a degree in Psychology at UGF.
"Two former Cabrillo College volleyball players attended UGF and played their last two years there. Both had good things to say about the education, volleyball program, and the community," Gonzalez said. "After my visit to Great Falls and meeting returning volleyball players, it made me eager to return in the fall."
Megan Krone | 5'10" | MB | Choteau, Mont
Choteau Bulldog Megan Krone was the third Montanan to join the 2017 Recruiting Class. Krone was a two-sport athlete at Choteau High, lettering in volleyball and basketball. The middle blocker earned All-State honors and First Team All-Conference as a senior.
While being a co-captain as a junior and senior, Krone helped lead the Bulldogs to win a conference, district, and divisional championship. She also helped the varsity basketball team earn second place at districts and become a state qualifier. For her efforts with the basketball team, she was given the MHSA Sportsmanship Award.
With a long list of athletic achievements, Krone also shines in the classroom. She has been on the Academic Honor Roll and Academic Letter List throughout high school, maintaining a 3.67 or higher GPA and was also given the FCCLA Ultimate Leader Award. During her time at Choteau High, she was Class Secretary, Class Treasurer, and Student Council President.
"I chose UGF because it fit my academic needs extremely well, was close enough to home, has given me an opportunity to better myself, and has given me the opportunity to play college volleyball," Krone said.
Krone will be redshirting her freshman year while recovering from a previous injury.
Ava Larkin | 5'9" | Setter | Parker, Colo.
Talented setter Ava Larkin from Parker, Colorado is in a position to be a crucial piece of UGF's groups of setters. Larkin was the starting setter for the Chaparral High Wolverines as a junior and senior and helped the Wolverines win the 5A Continental Regional Title in 2016. She was named to the Denver Post's 2016 All-State List, earned First-Team All-State honors, and was named Academic All-State Honorable Mention.
Along with an impressive high school career, Larkin played at the highest level of club volleyball. As the starting setter for the Colorado Volleyball Association Roshambo 18's team, she helped lead her squad to win the U-18 USA Division at the Crossroads Qualifier in 2017. She was also a Silver Medalist in the Patriot Division at the Junior National Championship Tournament and at the Big South Qualifier in 2015.
With experience competing at the highest levels of both high school and club play, Larkin is already familiar with a fast-paced game and knows how to effectively orchestrate an offense of talented teammates. She will have the opportunity to compete for a starting spot right away.
"It had everything I was looking for," Larkin said as to why she decided to commit to the Lady Argo program. "UGF has great girls, a goal-oriented coaching staff, and a welcoming environment."
Maddie Link | 5'6" | DS | Flagstaff, Ariz.
Maddie Link, a Flagstaff, Arizona native, was a three-year starter for the Coconino High School indoor and beach volleyball team. She earned honorable mention in the Grand Canyon Regional Conference as a defensive specialist and also competed for the Panthers varsity softball team for two years.
Link's competitive and aggressive back row presence will bring a tough battle between her and the other young Lady Argo defensive specialists.
Outside of volleyball, Link was a four-semester honor roll student and is a Special Olympic and Peer Counseling Coordinator.
"I loved the small-town feel," Link said. "The coaches and team were very sweet, as well as incredibly talented and competitive."
Zuri Meehan | 5'6" | DS | Corvallis, Ore.
The second transfer added to the 2017 Recruiting Class was libero Zuri Meehan from North Idaho College. Meehan helped the Cardinals take ninth place in the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament in 2015, dominating on the court and in the classroom with a 3.58 GPA, good for Dean's List and Honor Roll and NIC.
Meeham will bring crucial consistency in service receive passing to the Lady Argo backline, where she will join Link and three strong returning sophomores.
Before becoming playing for NIC, Meehan attended Mead High School where she was named Valedictorian. She was a three-year varsity player for the Panthers with two state appearances. She cracked the starting lineup of her highly competitive high school program as a junior and became the team's captain her senior year.
"While searching for a school to transfer to, I was looking for somewhere that felt like home; I found that feeling at UGF," Zuri said. "The authenticity of everyone on campus was so comforting and I knew I could grow athletically and academically. I was so impressed by the volleyball team; I knew I wanted to be a part of it."
She will be studying education at UGF in the fall.
Kailey Rashford | 6'1" | MB | Placentia, Calif.
El Dorado High School's 6'1" middle blocker Kailey Rashford from Placentia, Calif., joins the 2017 Recruiting Class. She has been a three-year varsity starter for El Dorado High and broke the school record for most blocks in a game (12). She was named to the All-League team in 2015 and 2016 and also won the coaches' award in 2016.
Alongside high school teammate Sydney Andersen, Rashford also competed on the Goldenwest Volleyball Club as the team's starting middle blocker. Rashford's tall frame and blocking ability will provide instant depth at middle blocker for the Lady Argos while making her a potential replacement for the team's blocks leader for the past two seasons, graduated senior Tiffany Marks.
"I chose to be an Argo because I felt an instant connection to the team and Coach Duda. I knew this team and small school atmosphere would be a good fit!" Rashford said. "Also, I chose UGF because Montana is beautiful and so different from Southern California"
Ember Schwindt | 5'10" | MB | Thompson Falls, Mont.
Middle blocker Ember Schwindt is returning to Cascade County after moving to Thompson Falls last year. As a three-sport athlete for both Cascade High School and Thompson Falls High School, Schwindt competed in volleyball, basketball, and track. She earned All-State honors in track and volleyball as well as All-Conference honors for basketball. She also played club volleyball for six years for the Great Falls Volleyball Club.
Showcased by her multi-sport abilities, Schwindt is a natural athlete with a versatile skillset that will make her an important part of UGF's depth along the front row.
Academically, Schwindt was named to the National Honor Roll and earned Academic All-State for four years. She participated in Business Professionals of America and the Montana Career Association.
"The fact that my dad taught continuing education courses at the University of Great Falls and COT was a big factor in my decision to attend UGF," Ember said. "He spoke highly of the school and the education it provided its students. Additionally, UGF is close to where I grew up and I am excited to get back to my roots and friends/family who supported me through a very tough part of my life."