With the number one recruit in the country coming to Tucson along with the return of Jaelyn Hodge and potentially Sofia Maldonado Diaz, Arizona Volleyball brings a strong core of attackers for 2024.
Look, I get it. Volleyball is not at the top of mind for Arizona Wildcats fans at this point in a year with Men's Basketball in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25 Poll, Women's Basketball putting fear into the Pac-12 as they continue to grow, all that has happened with football, and the need for a new Athletic Director, but working in the shadows of all that, Charita Stubbs has quietly had an impressive offseason so far.
Despite the tough season endured by the Wildcats this fall, Stubbs has maintained a very strong recruiting class coming to Tucson this coming fall with Carlie Cisneros and Avery Scoggins headlining the class.
Then on January 10th Stubbs got a significant boost when Jaelyn Hodge announced her intention to utilize her final eligible season and return for a 5th year.
Recruiting Class Among The Strongest In Recent Years
As far as recruiting classes go, getting the number one player in the country is sure to put some helium and hype behind the class, and that's what Stubbs secured by maintaining the commitment of No. 1 prospect and All-American in Outside Hitter Carlie Cisneros.
Obviously, with those accolades, you'd expect more awards for Cisneros, who most recently was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the second consecutive year in the state of Missouri. Cisneros is the first ever No. 1 recruit to sign with Arizona Volleyball.
Joining Cisneros is the Gatorade Player of the Year from North Carolina in Avery Scoggins. Scoggins will come to Arizona and look to immediately challenge Ana Heath at Setter, which should very much elevate both players' quality while also adding significant depth to a position that was a bit thin in 2023.
The third and final member of the class (for now) is Middle Blocker Adrianna Bridges out of Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Bridges is sure to bring to the middle blocker position some additional competition to that spot, another position that felt a bit thin with no real options to turn to if struggles popped up.
All in all, this class filled significant needs, as with a largely defensive first class for Coach Stubbs, her now first full class is focused more on the attack.
Hodge's Return is Huge for the Wildcats
For the better part of her Wildcats career, the team has gone much as Jaelyn Hodge has, and despite a down year, Hodge still provided necessary leadership for Arizona in 2023 and will look to continue that in 2024.
As the true veteran presence on the front line for the Wildcats, Hodge's return will also aid in the growth of heralded freshman Carlie Cisneros, as the need for immediate impact will not be as strong had it been with the loss of Hodge and Sofia Maldonado Diaz.
The experience will also provide a calming presence on the court, as Hodge is the type of player who appears to be able to maintain the course no matter if she is struggling or dominating.
Sofia Maldonado Diaz to Return?
To this point, I do not believe that a decision either way has been publicly stated by Sofia Maldonado Diaz; however, in a recent Arizona Volleyball Instagram Day in the Life story, Maldonado Diaz was in the practice in a couple of the clips, which leads me to believe that her return is a strong possibility.
Should she return, Maldonado Diaz will only boost what should be a strong attack for the Wildcats as she would join Hodge, Cisneros, and Sydnie Vanek on what could very well turn into a very dynamic Arizona attack on the Outside and Right Side, with Alayna Johnson, Nicole Briggs likely to hold down the middle.