Penn State women’s volleyball currently holds verbal commitments from three of the nation’s top 2021 prospects in Rachel Muisenga, Quinn Menger, and Anjelina Starck.
This week, we’re taking a look at these three to see what kind of players the Nittany Lions will be getting in 2021. First up is Wheaton, Illinois, native Rachel Muisenga, who committed to Penn State on August 2, 2018. You can read our articles about Menger here and Starck here.
Muisenga guided Benet Academy to a 41-1 record and the Class 4A state championship as a junior last November. The program’s fourth state title coincided with Muisenga’s transition to setter after being a right-side hitter her first two seasons playing high school volleyball. She took over the starting job after the graduation of Ally Van Eekeren, who’s now a rising sophomore at Creighton.
Benet Academy has produced quite a few Division I volleyball players over the years, including Wisconsin standouts Tiffany Clark and Lauren Barnes, who helped lead the Badgers to the national championship match against Stanford this past season.
“Benet Academy has shaped me in many ways,” Muisenga said. “Benet volleyball has helped my development as a player both mentally and physically. It has helped me become a stronger leader and develop my knowledge of the game.
“Watching Tiffany Clark and Lauren Barnes was always exciting. They have always been hard workers and now they have gone on to be very successful. Although I never played with them, I always admired their competitive personalities. I look up to them because they have been where I am and prepared in the right ways to be great.”
Muisenga grew up in a volleyball family, so there was no shortage of motivation around the house, either. Her older sisters, Sarah and Allison, both went on to play for the University of Chicago. Allison will be a senior defensive specialist this fall.
Rachel has established herself as a star setter on the club circuit for Adversity Volleyball, which is based out of Vernon Hills, Illinois — about a 40-mile drive north of her hometown. Muisenga and Starck, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter from Colorado Springs, Colorado, were recently named to the VolleyballMag.com 25 Underclassmen to Watch List.
“I met Anjelina at camp last summer and she was so sweet and fun to play with,” Muisenga said. “She is a very well-rounded player. Anjelina has great serve-receive and defense and can hit the ball hard.”
Checking in at 6-feet tall, Muisenga brings ample size and versatility to the setter position and was already touching 10 feet early in her high school career, according to her coach, Brad Baker. She has all the tools necessary to be a six-rotation player for the Nittany Lions one day.
“A strength of mine is my big hands and long arms,” Muisenga said. “I also love to compete and be loud. Something I need to improve on is my quickness to the ball, because the game just gets faster. I also need to stay disciplined on defense.”
Muisenga and Menger, a 5-foot-11 setter from Richmond, Virginia, took their official visits to Penn State together this past September when the Nittany Lions welcomed Stanford and Oregon to Rec Hall for the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. They also attended the 100th (and potentially final) meeting between Penn State and Pitt’s football programs at Beaver Stadium that weekend.
“Quinn is a great player,” Muisenga said. “She is tough and plays great defense. I love her energy on the court.”
Muisenga also discussed her recruitment and what it was about Penn State that drew her in and made her feel comfortable committing to Russ Rose’s program. Like many recruits visiting Penn State’s campus, she mentioned the Berkey Creamery’s famous ice cream as a highlight.
“I was looking at a few other schools in the Big Ten and the SEC, but I ultimately chose Penn State because of the culture. After my first camp, I knew it was where I wanted to be. It is a very successful program with a great coaching staff and I admired the team and their work ethic. I also loved the campus and the people I met.”
Penn State and U.S. women’s national team fans are certainly familiar with Muisenga’s two biggest influences on the volleyball court.
“The two athletes I looked up to most were Micha Hancock and Lauren Carlini,” she said. “I loved watching Micha play because she is so competitive and a great player. Lauren grew up and played near me, so I have watched and admired her for a long time.”
All-American setter Gabby Blossom will be a senior when Muisenga arrives at Penn State in 2021, but that doesn’t mean Muisenga won’t factor into the rotation in some capacity as a true freshman. Rose is known for being creative with his substitutions and Muisenga offers plenty of upside at a variety of positions.
“I spent time with Rachel last summer at camp and she is really nice,” Starck said. “We got along great and I am excited to have the opportunity to play with her for four years. Rachel has a great work ethic and great attitude.”
Although competitive sports have largely come to a standstill around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s currently unclear when it will be safe to start back up again, Muisenga hasn’t let that affect her training.
“Before I get to the Penn State campus, I want to continue to progress my game on two levels,” Muisenga said. “I am going to work on my skills and the strategic part of the game. Another goal I have is to continue to improve my strength and fitness to prepare for the high level of play.”