PHILADELPHIA - With only one graduating senior and a total of 13 letterwinners coming back into the fold, the 2012 volleyball season already appears bright after back-to-back conference titles for the Quakers in 2009 and 2010. In addition to the wealth of talent currently on the roster, such as First Team All-Ivy libero Dani Shepherd and Honorable Mention middle blocker Amanda Pacheco, head coach Kerry Carr is pleased to announce four talented incoming recruits that promise to make an impact in 2012 and beyond.
Six members of the Penn volleyball team are from California, so Carr and her staff are not strangers to the Golden State. They again looked west this year and brought in three high-profile recruits from the San Francisco area in Veronica Bither, Alexandra Caldwell and Michellie McDonald-O'Brien. The fourth member of the class, Jasmine DeSilva, is a local product, coming to Penn from the Washington D.C. area.
Veronica (Ronnie) Bither, a 5-8 setter/defensive specialist from Presentation High School in San Jose, matriculates to Philadelphia on the heels of an amazing senior season. Serving as captain of both her club and high school teams, Bither was an All-Tournament selection in leading her high school to the California Division II State Championship. In the championship game alone, she came up with 10 kills, 28 assists, 16 digs and eight blocks. She then followed that with a club championship for the Vision 18 Gold team, as they took home the gold medal at the SCVA Las Vegas Classic, considered one of the premier national tournaments on the club volleyball circuit. Bither was named First Team All-Santa Clara County by the San Jose Mercury-News, First Team All-WCAL and a MaxPreps California Division II First Team member as a senior.
Alexandra (Alex) Caldwell joined Bither on the Vision 18 Gold team that recently won the Las Vegas tournament earlier this month. The 5-11 Caldwell played her high school ball for Archbishop Mitty in San Jose and is able to spend time at both the right-side hitter and setter positions. Caldwell's versatility sets her apart from most other volleyball players and could allow her to step in immediately and find a place in Penn's rotation. Like Bither, Caldwell was named First Team All-Santa Clara County and First Team All-WCAL while earning a MaxPreps California Division II Second Team nod.
The last Bay Area product is Michellie McDonald-O'Brien, a 6-0 middle blocker out of St. Ignatius Prep in San Francisco. Named to the San Francisco Examiner's All-City First Team as a junior and senior and referred to there as "the city's best pure hitter," McDonald-O'Brien is a dual volleyball/track standout who will bring an electrifying leaping ability to the middle of Penn's front line. While suiting up for St. Ignatius, McDonald-O'Brien helped the team win its first-ever CCS Division III Championship in 2010 and is a two-time All-WCAL selection. At the recently completed Las Vegas Classic, her City Beach 18-1 club team took the silver bracket of the 18 open division.
Rounding out Coach Carr's four commitments is Jasmine DeSilva, a 5-11 outside hitter from Owings, Md. who played at Northern High School and for the same club team as current Quaker, Lauren Davis. Though limited by injury, which kept her out of the line-up most of her senior season, DeSilva was critical to her team as a junior, recording nearly 200 kills as Northern rolled to a 19-0 record and a Class 3A state championship. Despite appearing in only half of her team's matches this season, she was still honored as First Team Southern Maryland News All-County and First Team All-SMAC, as well as All-Metro Honorable Mention. On the club level, DeSilva is working herself back into form with the Metro American 18-1 team, which recently took first place earlier this month at the Mid-Atlantic Power League in Hampton Roads, Va.
"This is one of the strongest recruiting classes ever to be recruited to Penn Volleyball," said Coach Carr. "Alex and Ronnie come from the current top club team in the nation, Vision 18 Gold. Alex is a right side hitter and blocker as well as a 5-1 or 6-2 setter and will make an immediate impact on our team in both places. Ronnie compliments her talents as a setter and together they are a deadly duo on the court. Michellie's team was the only team to beat them in Northern California last year, and she is one of the most athletic middle blockers I have seen in this 2012 class. Jasmine continues to develop with her time at one of the best club teams in the D.C. area and will be a tremendous addition as she learns how to control her tremendous athleticism in hitting over, around and through the block."
"Overall, I believe the athleticism in this class is the best in the Ivy League. I am so excited to add these players to our young team that grew leaps and bounds during last season. Although we will still be young next year, our experienced players will be able to help assimilate these young recruits and bring them up to speed in order to contend for the championship as a team. In the meantime, it's fun to watch our recruits splash Penn pride as they continue to win National tournaments across the county on the road leading up to their first collegiate season."