Catherine Burke, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, announced her verbal commitment to Penn State women’s volleyball on August 25, becoming the third member of the program’s 2023 recruiting class.
Burke, who was previously committed to Syracuse, visited Penn State’s campus to tour the facilities and interact with the coaches and players last week before coming to her decision. Burke joined pin hitter Karis Willow and defensive specialist Jocelyn Nathan as a 2023 Penn State commit.
Burke plays her club volleyball for Adversity, which also produced Penn State freshmen Gillian Grimes and Katie Hurta, the former of whom made a significant impact in the backcourt opening weekend for the Nittany Lions. The trio were teammates before Grimes and Hurta headed to college this summer.
Burke discussed her commitment to Penn State, how she was introduced to volleyball, and her admiration for former Big Ten stars Haleigh Washington and Dana Rettke, among other topics, in an exclusive interview with DigNittanyVolleyball. The full transcript can be found below.
What were the main factors in your decision to commit to Penn State?
“One of the main factors in my decision to commit to Penn State was meeting the coaches and players. Everyone was extremely welcoming and supportive of each other. Also playing in the Big Ten has always been a dream of mine, and I am so excited to get the chance to compete at this level and represent Penn State and its incredible legacy.”
What do you like most about campus and the facilities? Was last week your first trip to State College? Are you planning to attend any matches at Rec Hall this season?
“Last week was my first time touring State College, and I loved it! Campus is beautiful and I love the view of the valleys. I visited during the first week of classes, and enjoyed getting to see the excitement of the students starting the new year. Every sports facility is top-notch, and it is obvious how invested the school and athletic department is in their athletes. I am not sure if I can make any matches at Rec Hall this season, but I am planning on attending Penn State’s away match at Northwestern, as NU is less than 20 minutes from where I live.”
What’s your relationship like with Penn State’s coaching staff? When did they first reach out to you?
“Coach Katie [Schumacher-Cawley], Dan [Gwitt], and Brian [Toron] are all awesome. I’ve enjoyed getting to know and talk to them, and I am so excited to have the opportunity to be coached by them. I love the family atmosphere they create for their players to help reach their potential. They reached out to me after nationals this year when I decided to reopen my college search. I then attended a Penn State camp run by coach Dan in the summer at my club, Adversity VBC.”
How were you introduced to volleyball? Who have been your biggest mentors in the sport? Were there any Penn State players you enjoyed watching growing up?
“I was introduced to volleyball in fifth grade at my grade school, and was encouraged to try out by a friend of mine and future teammate’s dad. I’ve loved competing and playing volleyball ever since, and started club the next year. Growing up, I’ve enjoyed and looked up to Dana Rettke and Haleigh Washington. I’ve always admired their game, and continue to watch them.”
What’s your relationship like with fellow Penn State commits Karis Willow, Jocelyn Nathan, Ava Falduto, and Izzy Starck?
“I am so excited to get to play with Karis, Jocelyn, Ava, and Izzy. I haven’t gotten the chance to meet them in person yet, but they are all awesome, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them.”
How familiar are you with fellow Adversity products and Penn State freshmen Gillian Grimes and Katie Hurta?
“I met Gillian and Katie at Adversity, and played with them for two years before they graduated. They are both great, super competitive, and so fun to be around. I loved getting to see and catch up with them while I was visiting, and can’t wait for next year.”
What are some of the strengths of your game? What would you like to improve before arriving at Penn State?
“Some of the strengths of my game are my drive to always push myself to get better, my high volleyball IQ, and coachability. Before I get to Penn State, I would like to improve on my strength, vertical, and endurance to be able to play a five-set match as the speed of the game quickens.”
How would you describe the competitive nature of Chicago area and Midwest volleyball in general? How has that helped prepare you for college?
“Volleyball is very competitive in Chicago and the Midwest with many talented players and coaches. This has helped me prepare for college by always pushing myself and taking my game to the next level.”
What are some of your goals for your senior season and final club campaign this spring? What’s your relationship like with your Adversity and Loyola Academy teammates?
“My goal for my senior season is to win state with my team. And, I’m excited to enjoy my final season with my club teammates, and hope to end on a high note at nationals. My relationship with my Adversity and Loyola Academy teammates is one where we encourage each other to get better while having fun and competing.”