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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Passing the torch: Transfers reshape A&M volleyball

Sophomore+Nisa+Buzlutepe+%2813%29+serves+the+ball+during+the+Aggies+match+against+San+Diego+on+Saturday%2C+Aug.+27%2C+2022+at+Reed+Arena.
Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sophomore Nisa Buzlutepe (13) serves the ball during the Aggies’ match against San Diego on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 at Reed Arena.

The onset of each new volleyball season carries a fresh start for a team, and the same can be said for the players.

After a 2021 campaign in which Texas A&M volleyball finished just 7-11 in SEC play, the team welcomes five transfers to Aggieland as the maroon and white look to reclaim their role as conference title contenders.

As the program was dealt heavy losses due to graduation and transfers following last season, head coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn hit the recruiting trail hard in the spring and summer of 2022. Entering her fifth year at the helm of the program, Kuhn targeted players from New York and Indiana while also venturing beyond the continental United States to Hawai’i.

Announced on April 25, the Aggies’ first addition came in graduate outside hitter and Notre Dame transfer Caroline Meuth. The San Antonio native was twice named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference Second Team while also reaching the All-Freshman team in 2019 with the Fighting Irish. Additionally, Meuth guided the Irish to two NCAA Tournament appearances in her first two years in South Bend, Ind.

“We are excited to add [Meuth] to our program and welcome her back home to the state of Texas,” Kuhn said. “She has proven that she knows how to compete at a high level in the collegiate game. [Meuth’s] high energy, passion for the game and personality makes her a great teammate, and we’re ready to have her in Aggieland.”

Junior middle blocker Molly Brown was next to transfer to A&M, joining the Aggies on May 24. The former Purdue Boilermaker didn’t make any appearances last season but played a key role as a true freshman in the 2020-21 campaign, leading her team to an NCAA Regional Final and the Elite 8 in the postseason.

“[Brown’s] work ethic and drive to compete are two characteristics that immediately stood out to us as a coaching staff,” Kuhn said. “[Brown’s] positive demeanor and high-level training experience will add depth in the middle and provide an immediate impact.”

A week later, junior defensive specialist Lauren Hogan announced her arrival in College Station. The Syracuse transfer was a member of the 2020-21 ACC All-Freshman team while leading the conference in digs per set with 4.75. Hogan amassed 490 digs and 86 assists over two seasons with the Orange, including a team-leading 280 digs her freshman year.

“[Hogan’s] enthusiasm and competitive drive immediately captured our attention the first time we talked with her,” Kuhn said. “Her athleticism and discipline, combined with her knowledge and libero experience, will breed high-level competition in our gym.”

On June 2, Hogan’s teammate at Syracuse, graduate setter Elena Karakasi, followed her footsteps to Aggieland and joined the maroon and white. Coming from Marousi-Athens, Greece, she finished with 2,486 assists across four years with the Orange, good for ninth most in school history. She totaled 1,035 assists last season, the fifth most in program history. At the amateur level, Karakasi competed on the U17 and U19 Greek national teams, finishing third at the Balkan Volleyball Association Championship in 2016.

“[Hogan’s] experience at both the collegiate and international level will add immense value to what she will bring to this team,” Kuhn said. “Her skill and ability to see the game will naturally elevate the daily competition.”

The Aggies’ transfer class was capped off with the addition of native Texan and Hawai’i transfer sophomore outside hitter Mia Johnson. Hailing from League City, she faced A&M as a member of the Rainbow Wahine last season, collecting a career-high 14 kills in a 3-0 victory for the Aggies on August 29.

The five transfers will pair with five true freshmen with a hope to propel the Aggies to their first conference title since 2015. The team isn’t short on experience either, as graduate libero Allison Fields, senior outside hitter Ciera Hecht and redshirt junior middle blocker Madison Bowser return after playing significant roles on the team last season.

The Aggies open the upcoming season by hosting the A&M Invitational from Aug. 26-28, where they’re set to take on Hawai’i, No. 25 San Diego and No. 6 Pittsburgh.

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