Driving through the cornfields of Nebraska, Michigan coach Mark Rosen raved about his newcomers set to take the court. Brooke Humphrey, Scottee Johnson, Jess Mruzik, Hannah Grant, Jenni Liu and Kendall Murray make up one of the highest-rated incoming classes Rosen has had at No. 6, data from VolleyballMag.com.
While the entire group is bustling with accolades, Rosen outlined three recruits who stand out: Johnson, Grant and Mruzik will join Michigan’s 2021 squad, designated as some of the most highly decorated recruits Rosen has ever nabbed.
Johnson, a freshman setter, hails from Dayton, Ohio and was named to the All-American Third Team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association in 2019. The six-foot setter was also named to the 2019 All-Ohio First Team and won player of the year honors in her district. Johnson broke out in a big way during her senior year, catching the attention of many throughout the country, including Rosen and the Wolverines.
“She’s a fiery competitor,” Rosen remarked. “I think that’s something she’s going to bring every day.”
Redshirt freshman libero Grant had a tumultuous path to Michigan. Starting her career up the road in East Lansing, Grant initially committed and redshirted at Michigan State because Michigan wasn’t actively recruiting a libero at the time of her graduation. But a hole in the Wolverines’ roster changed that this upcoming year.
“When she popped up in the transfer portal, at that point we were like, ‘boy we’d love to have this kid,’ ” Rosen said. “We were really hoping we’d have a chance to get her.”
In high school, Grant anchored Northville High School as a varsity libero for four years. Grant was an AAU All American in 2018, receiving second team all-state honors that same year. According to MaxPreps, Grant racked up almost 3,000 career digs and 229 career aces while at Northville. The redshirt freshman is a member of a collection of Wolverines who played for Legacy Volleyball Club based in Oakland County, Mich. prior to arriving in Ann Arbor.
Rosen anticipates that Grant will mesh right away due to her existing ties to players on the team. She already has experience playing with instrumental members of the team, namely Maddie Dowd, Abbie Malinowski and Jess Mruzik. Plus, with a year of extra experience under her belt, she comes in with the extra year of knowledge about the sport, adding a layer of experience to this class.
The final member of the aforementioned trifecta, freshman outside hitter Jess Mruzik, has pretty much done it all. In 2019 alone, Mruzik won the Division I state title with Mercy High School, was named the MVP of the Under Armour All American game, earned First Team All-State honors and won the National Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year award. Prior to those awards, Mruzik served as the captain of the Team USA U18 team in 2018.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a player who is as well-rounded coming in as a freshman,” Rosen said. “She’s just such a confident passer, attacker, blocker, server, defender. She really impacts the game in every way possible.”
Mruzik’s resumé alone likely qualifies her as the best recruit Michigan has ever snagged. Once a Michigan ball girl, Mruzik stayed in-house and verbally committed to the Wolverines all the way back in 2017.
Additionally, Rosen emphasized that there are major intangibles that Mruzik brings to the table when it comes to her leadership abilities. Boasting an even-keeled style, she likely will bring a unique energy to each game that puts resilience first.
“A lot of kids, when they’re that highly touted, they have a hard time with that transition because they want to be perfect,” Rosen said. “If (Mruzik) doesn’t play great every point, it doesn’t bother her. She’s very steady, very consistent, very resilient. That’s pretty special for an 18-year-old.”
Aside from those three, other players in the class continue to fly under the radar that the coaching staff hopes to see a big jump from this season. Freshman libero Brooke Humphrey comes in touting All American status and first team all-state honors in Indiana. Humphrey cut her teeth at the outside hitter position throughout high school and club volleyball until Rosen asked her to switch to the libero and defensive specialist positions.
Rosen describes freshman outside hitter Murray as a player with an incredibly high ceiling who may surprise some people. Murray is long and athletic, allowing her to dominate at the net, and has impressed the coaching staff tenfold since she first entered the gym for the Wolverines.
“(Murray) is one of those players that is going to mature later,” Rosen said. “As she gets stronger, she is going to be really good.”
The final member of the class, sophomore transfer Jenni Liu, had a more unorthodox path to Ann Arbor than her peers. Liu attended high school in Berlin, Germany, and from there began her college playing career at Blinn College — a junior college in Brenham, Texas. Liu comes in with an already impressive record both internationally and domestically from her days playing at Blinn.
“She’s someone who is really learning,” Rosen said. “It’s a very different system, a very different culture for her.”
Liu’s addition to the class puts a bow on top of the most talented group Rosen has brought in. They’re poised to hit the floor immediately as the season starts and the only question left is whether they’ll be able to meet their expectations.