Big Ten 2023, News.

Taylah Holdem 1411

Michigan State's Taylah Holdem has been one of the most productive international players in the season (Photo: Michigan State)

The Big Ten women’s volleyball conference has long been the preferred destination for emerging American volleyball players who want to continue to develop their games and compete at the highest level of collegiate sports before they start their professional careers.

The consistently high level of play presented by Big Ten programs has also attracted international volleyball prospects and over the years, more and more players from other countries have made the move to the United States to play in the conference.

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In 2023, eight of the Big Ten 14 teams counted on international players in their squads as the conference featured 19 international athletes from seven different countries. Some of them have earned key roles in their teams and here are five of them:

Taylah Holdem

Michigan State have made international players a big part of their recruitment strategy and have as many as five foreigners in their squad. A freshman, Holdem has been the most productive and decisive among them after joining from New Zealand last January, shortly after representing her country at the 2022 U19 Beach Volleyball World Championship. The 1.88m-tall outside hitter is one of just two players to appear in all 100 sets played by the Spartans this season so far and leads the team in kills (352), aces (28) and passes (664) while ranking second in digs (212).

Candela Alonso-Corcelles

In her second season with Indiana, Alonso-Corcelles has grown into a larger role with the team. A member of the Spanish U16, U17 and U18 national teams, she has played in 104 of the 107 sets played by the Hoosiers during the season and has been the team’s main offensive option, having registered 283 kills. The 1.81m-tall outside hitter also ranks second on defense, with 191 digs.

Anna Smrek

A two-time Big Ten champion and one-time national champion with Wisconsin, Smrek is having a career year in her junior season with the Badgers. Splitting time between the middle blocker and opposite positions, she has 200 kills, the third-highest mark in the team, and is third also in blocks with 86. A junior, the 2.12m-tall Smrek represented Canada at the 2019 U18 World Championship and took silver in the NORCECA Championship at the same age group the year before.

Valentina Vaulet

One of two international players to be a part of Michigan’s roster, Vaulet has been on the court in 80 of the team’s 89 sets in the season. She is the second player with the most kills in the Wolverines’ roster at 209 and also ranks second in aces with 32. The 1.87m-tall freshman opposite has played numerous international tournaments with her country’s national team, most notably the U18 and U20 World Championships in 2021.

Alissa Kinkela

A redshirt sophomore, Kinkela is in her second season with Rutgers and, just like she did in her freshman year, is leading the team’s offense with 291 kills – followed by another international player, Serbian middle blocker Tina Grković. Before moving to New Jersey, the 1.90m-tall outside hitter got some valuable experience with the Australian national team, being part of the roster in the Asian Olympic Qualifier for the Tokyo Games, in 2020, and appearing at the 2018 U17 Asian Championship and the 2019 U23 Asian Championship.