Out with the old, in with the new.
This fall, the Michigan volleyball team will welcome a highly-touted group of freshmen to Ann Arbor. The class is comprised of outside hitters Jess Robinson and May Pertofsky, setter Madison Dowd and libero Amber Beals.
Robinson, an in-state product from Troy, was selected to Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 — a prestigious list of the best high school seniors in the country, as voted on by a panel of Division I coaches. She tallied 1,714 kills, 588 digs, 122 aces and 101 blocks in her first three high school seasons en route to Prep Volleyball All-American honors.
Her 6-foot-2 front row presence was felt across the nation on the club circuit, earning her the No. 8 spot in Prep Volleyball’s national recruiting rankings.
“We see (Robinson) as an elite national recruit,” said Wolverines’ head coach Mark Rosen in a release. “We’ve been tracking (Robinson’s) development for quite some time, and we truly feel she’s one of the top players nationally in the 2019 class. She’s a local player and plays for a local club team, so we’ve been able to see her strong development and believe her ceiling for development is limitless. She’s a phenomenal athlete, but she's still very young in her development and has a lot of room to grow.
“… I think she’s somebody that can impact us really early in her career, but we definitely feel that she’s an elite recruit with great room to develop who has the chance to be an elite collegiate player.”
Rosen was attracted to Robinson’s ceiling throughout the recruiting process, but he also values her versatility. She has experience as a middle blocker, where Michigan struggled last season following then-redshirt junior Cori Crocker’s ankle injury. Robinson could see playing time at either the middle position or the left pin this fall.
While acclimating to the college level, Robinson’s most impactful attribute could be her vertical leap.
“Robinson doesn’t just jump off the page, she nearly jumps out the building,” wrote Drew Ellis of Prep Dig, a volleyball prospect evaluation website, last September.
Pertofsky, the Wolverines’ other early signee, hails from Los Angeles, Calif. The Max Preps All-American racked up three All-League Gold Coast MVP awards during her high school career. At 6-foot-1, she brings formidable size across the front row.
Like Robinson, her versatility could lead to immediate playing time.
“(Pertofsky’s) strength and what she’s going to bring to us is that she could play multiple positions,” Rosen said. “She can play in the middle, on the right or on the left. She’s a good physical athlete that is fast, explosive, jumps well and has a good arm swing. She has all the tools that will allow us to put her in a position to create an impact for us and allow her to be very successful. We’re leaning (towards using) her as a middle blocker, but there's a lot of options with her, which makes it very exciting.
“(Pertofsky) is used to winning at the highest level so she’s coming in as someone who is ready to compete at a high level, and I think she's going to be a great addition to our program.”
As for Beals, she brings just about everything to the table that Robinson and Pertfosky lack. She could see an opportunity to make an impact this season as a defensive substitution or serving specialist following the graduation of Maddy Abbott, who played that role in 2018.
The Columbus native, who earned Junior Volleyball Association All-American honors in high school, will compete with rising senior Kyleigh Hamacher for such duties.
A late signee, Dowd rounded out the class in May after flipping her commitment from Georgetown. She was a finalist for Michigan’s coveted Miss Volleyball Award and, like Robinson, played for Legacy Volleyball Club. Dowd will battle it out with rising senior Katerina Rocafort for primary backup setter duties this fall.
Rosen has established a strong pipeline from Legacy to Ann Arbor. Crocker, rising sophomore outside hitter Abbey Malinowski and a handful of recent program alumni all came from the club. On the other hand, Pertofsky played for Sunshine Volleyball Club, the same program as rising redshirt junior Ellie Brooks.
But, regardless of where they came from, the incoming freshmen will be tasked with helping Michigan succeed in the Big Ten gauntlet immediately.
“We’re really excited about this class,” Rosen said. “They’re all very different in terms of how they’ll impact our program, but they’re all very athletic and they’re all players that are used to winning. They’ve all played on great club and high school teams that are used to winning and competing at a high level, so I think they all have a chance to come in and make us better.”