First-Class Ticket to Nashville

Vanderbilt volleyball announces its first signing class under head coach Anders Nelson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt volleyball head coach Anders Nelson announced Wednesday the signing of six student-athletes to join the newly reinstated program. Nelson’s initial recruiting class will begin training in the fall of 2024 in preparation for the team’s first season of competition, which will begin in fall 2025.

“When we started to build this class, we were looking for student-athletes who had the courage to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, could compete at the SEC level and were the type of young women who match the elite reputation of Vanderbilt,” Nelson said. “This group exceeded our expectations.”

Hailee Mack was the first student-athlete to verbally commit to Nelson’s program, followed by Giovanna Mason, Reese Animashaun, Taryn DeWese, Madison Bowser and Rachel Ogunleye.

Mack, a 5-foot-11 libero, is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. She played club volleyball at Kiva Volleyball from 2018 to 2023 and will play at IMG Academy during the 2023-24 season. Mack has been named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America Watch List for the past two years and has received invitations to the USA Volleyball National Team Development Program (2022-23) and Under Armor Next Camp (2022-23). In 2022, she was named to the Junior Volleyball Association Watch List after earning all-region recognition the previous year. Off the court, Mack was named academic first-team all-state in 2021 and 2022 and is a member of the Spanish National Honor Society, honor roll and service honor roll.

Mason, who is 5-foot-11, attends Liberty Hill High School and plays for Austin Juniors Volleyball as an opposite hitter. This past season in 2023, she was named to the Texas Girls Coaches Association 5A all-state team. In 2022 and 2023, Mason was named to the Westwood Showcase all-tournament team, where she and the Liberty Hill volleyball team placed second. Mason was also named the Austin American-Statesman Athlete of the Week. During her sophomore year in 2021, she was named to the AVCA Phenom List. A member of the Austin Juniors 10-foot club, she has attended the USAV NTDP and the 2018 Iowa Junior Olympics. Throughout high school, Mason has received all-academic team and honor roll recognition.

Animashaun of Houston, Texas, attends St. John’s School and plays club volleyball for Houston Skyline. She is a seven-time recipient of the Not Without Honor Award, which is given to the top female student-athlete at St. John’s each year. Animashaun is 5-foot-11 and an outside hitter. She has earned All-Southwest Preparatory Conference recognition on three occasions and has participated in the USAV NTDP. She and her team were third overall in the 17 Open division at the USA Volleyball National Championship—when she was named to the all-tournament team—and second in the 15 Open division. Animashaun has been selected as Skyline 15, 16 and 17 Royal MVP. Off the court, she is an honor roll student and volunteers with the Jack and Jill of America Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

DeWese, a 5-foot-11 setter, preps at Lake High School and plays club volleyball for the Toledo Volleyball Club. A native of Bowling Green, Ohio, DeWese is a three-time first-team all-league selection and has been named all-district three times, once first team and twice second team. The 2022-23 all-league and District 7, Division II Player of the Year, DeWese has tallied more than 1,000 career kills and assists. Off the court, she volunteers with Bitty Volleyball and her church’s food bank. She has also been a member of her school’s honor roll for the past three years.

Bowser is a member of five honor societies and the honor roll at Bishop O’Connell High School in Vienna, Virginia. At 6-foot-3, she is a member of Metro Volleyball Club of DC where she plays middle hitter. At the 2023 USA Volleyball National Championship, she and the Metro Volleyball Club placed fifth overall. She was a member of Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship-winning teams in 2021 and 2022, receiving All-WCAC honorable mention in 2021 before being named second-team all-conference the following season. In 2022, she was also named Fall All-Met: Volleyball honorable mention by The Washington Post and received second-team recognition in 2022. Bowser was selected to the 2023 AVCA High School All-American Watch List and the 2022 AVCA Phenom Watch List.

Ogunleye of Bloomington, Illinois, is 6-foot-2 and was named an all-state athlete during her freshman, sophomore and junior years. She attends University High School and plays for the Illini Elite Volleyball Club as a middle hitter. For the past three years, Ogunleye has been named academic all-state. She volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal, Safe Harbor Homeless Shelter, Carle BroMenn Hospital and Miracle League.

“This group has a desire to be a part of history and the determination to lay the foundation of this program with our coaching staff,” Nelson said. “They will exemplify the characteristics of a Vanderbilt volleyball student-athlete on the court, in the classroom and in the Nashville community. These six student-athletes will leave legacies that tell stories of their courage as the first signees in the reemergence of our program.”