MORAGA, Calif. -- Madelyn Hutson has played collegiate volleyball at a high level, and arrives at Saint Mary's this season as an impressive addition to an already strong squad.
Of course, no one is expecting the Texas transfer to join the lineup and take over. Far from it, in fact. Hutson is one of four highly talented newcomers to join the Gaels for the 2013 season, and along with Maegan Conroy, Nicole Powers and Alexis Salmons she'll play a part in providing an influx of skill and personality that should only strengthen the foundation already in place for head coach Rob Browning's squad.
Hutson is the most experienced of the new crop of Gaels, with two seasons at Texas under her belt. She appeared in 44 matches for the Longhorns, averaging 1.17 kills per set as a freshman in 2011.
She has also competed internationally for the United States at multiple tournaments. Most recently, she donned the Stars and Stripes at the 2011 FIVB World Championships, helping the Americans place fourth.
At 6-foot-5, there's no mistaking Hutson's presence at the net, and Browning praised her for her ability as both an attacker and a blocker. But, in perhaps the category that matters most, the native of Brentwood, Tenn. has had no trouble at all joining a tight-knit group of players.
"In terms of her as a person, we couldn't have a better fit. Even when she just came to visit, the girls said 'wow, she fits in really well with us,'" Browning said. "She spent the entire summer here and was with the girls and every aspect of it has been as if she's been here already for a few years."
Making her addition even more impactful is the fact that she won't have to step in and be a game-changer. She'll be another strong player in a lineup full of them, and that should serve to eliminate any pressure Hutson might feel as she begins her career as a Gael.
"The level we're at is phenomenal, and I just want to keep raising it. I think we all do," Hutson said. "We're all of the same mindset for where we want to go with the season. I think it's going to be really great."
Also joining the Gaels this season is a trio of freshmen with plenty of accolades and tons of potential.
Conroy also comes to Moraga by way of the Lonestar State. A native of Lubbock, Texas, she was named the Texas District 1-4A Most Valuable Player as a senior in 2012. A two-time first team all-district selection, she'll find a home at outside hitter with the Gaels.
Powers is a local product, as the San Ramon Valley High graduate also played for the NorCal-18 Black club team. A second team All-East Bay Athletic League selection in 2012, she joins the Gaels as a libero for the 2013 season.
Finally, Salmons comes to Saint Mary's as a 6-foot-1 middle blocker with a lengthy resume. The Francis Parker High product was twice named a first-team All-California Interscholastic Federation performer for Division IV schools and a three-time All-San Diego Division IV selection. A starter for the Wave Volleyball club that finished in the top 10 in the nation the last three seasons, she was selected to Prep Volleyball's Top 150 Senior Ace list.
"Every one of them are at a point right now where they could contribute in small ways on the team," Browning said. "Potentially big ways, but probably smaller ways. That's impressive, really. All three are skilled at what they do. Maegan and Nicole in particular with their back row play and Alexis is a very good attacker and blocker."
In much the same way as Hutson, all three freshmen will tackle their first season at Saint Mary's with little immediate pressure. As impressive as they've been in the early stages of practice, each of the newest Gaels will have a chance to work and, perhaps, earn a spot in the rotation.
"The question I think more is how much will we need to rely on them this year. We might not need to use them a whole lot. But, the door is open. They know the door is open for them to earn a spot if they can," Browning said. "We're encouraging them to go for that and their teammates are encouraging them to go for that while at the same time wanting to make sure that the returners know they need to earn their spot. We'll see how much they'll be able to contribute. They're certainly good enough where they can. We'll see how much they need to."