McDaniel setter Lily Mae Buerkle (left) and Salem Academy hitter Emma Brewer will lead NPJ into USAV nationals in Las Vegas.
McDaniel setter Lily Mae Buerkle (left) and Salem Academy hitter Emma Brewer will lead NPJ into USAV nationals in Las Vegas.

Two Oregon players were among the hottest commodities when college volleyball coaches were permitted to first contact Class of 2026 prospects June 15.

McDaniel setter Lily Mae Buerkle and Salem Academy outside hitter Emma Brewer, teammates at the Salem-based North Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club, have been getting plenty of attention from colleges.

“They're at the top of the 2026 recruiting class,” NPJ director Adam Ellis said. “They've had about 30-plus calls from Division I coaches. It was a busy week for both of them.”

The 5-foot-10 Buerkle didn't need much time to make a decision, committing to Washington on Thursday. Buerkle will join another NPJ setter -- Silverton's Alexis Haury, a 2024 graduate who was ranked among the nation's top five players in her class -- with the Huskies.

Buerkle attended Washington's camps the past two years.

“I've gotten to work pretty closely with a lot of their coaches,” Buerkle said. “Something I noticed from the beginning is they really care about you as a person, outside of volleyball. … It was a pretty easy choice after learning all my other options.”

NPJ is developing a pipeline for major-college setters. Crescent Valley setter Kamden Mitchell, who is heading into her senior year, has committed to Oregon.

“Behind Alexis, Lily Mae and Kamden are the best setters to come out of Oregon in a long time,” Ellis said.

Ellis said much of the credit for developing setters goes to NPJ coach Mike Gee, who has won medals coaching USA Volleyball youth teams. Gee began working with Buerkle after she joined NPJ last summer.

“She came to us because she had never been trained as a setter,” Ellis said. “She really wanted to take her game to the next level. She's the most elite setter in the Pacific Northwest in the 2026 class. She's very physical. At 5-10, she's a great blocker. She just does a really good job of running a very effective and fast offense.”

Buerkle said she has taken a big step forward during the club season.

“Something big I've been working on is adapting to different balls and being able to adjust to my teammates, and reading the game a lot more,” Buerkle said. “Just being flexible and being able to play in any environment, and adjust to any ball.”

Buerkle's athleticism and ability to motivate and elevate her teammates sets her apart.

“She's an absolutely amazing leader both on and off the court,” Brewer said. “She's got a super calm composure on the court. Her volleyball skill by itself is absolutely insane. Definitely the best setter I've ever played with. She keeps our team going. She runs everything.”

The 6-1 Brewer ranked first in the state in kills last season in leading Salem Academy to a 2A runner-up finish, following a state title her freshman season.

Ellis said that Brewer is “one of the most sought-after players in the country.” Brewer declined to be specific about the college offers she has received, but said she is pleased with how the process is unfolding.

“It's been cool to finally see the hard work paying off, and actually be able to talk to coaches and look at what I could be doing at the next level,” Brewer said.

Brewer has flourished in the transition from middle blocker to outside hitter in the last two years. The move has helped open up her all-around game.

“Coming to the outside from being in the middle my 14s year, I had to learn how to pass,” Brewer said. “That's been really good. Being a middle, I think it's really helped with my transition to outside. Being a strong blocker on that left side, and being able to stay there and put up a strong block if they have a dominant right side on the other team.”

Ellis could see the potential in Brewer from an early age.

“Once I saw Emma when she was 13 years old, I knew she was going to be one of the top players to come out of Oregon,” Ellis said. “She's extremely athletic, very physical, and she eats, sleeps and breathes everything volleyball.”

Buerkle said “it's been amazing” playing with Brewer.

“She's just like a force on the court,” Buerkle said. “One of my favorite things about her is she's just really steady. She'll go up and get those crazy kills when we need them, but she's always there, pushing the team forward.”

Brewer has grown into a savvy competitor.

“I have really good composure and energy on the court,” Brewer said. “I try to bring as much intensity as possible to the team, and any environment. I like to lead with how I play.”

Brewer and Buerkle will lead NPJ into the season-ending USA Volleyball junior nationals early next month in Las Vegas.

“It's a top team in the country,” Ellis said. “Their goal is to bring home a medal.”

Brewer said she is “super excited” to play with NPJ at nationals.

“This year's team is super full of talent,” Brewer said. “It's pretty much a brand new team, since we got so many people that came from other clubs.”

Buerkle likes the team's chances in Las Vegas.

“If we really put our heads down and we're all playing for the same goal, I think we've got a good chance,” Buerkle said. “It's not going to be easy, it's going to take a lot of work, but if we really push each other forward, I think we can do something special.”