Penn State Volleyball Alums Win Bronze At Pan American Cup

A trio of Penn State women’s volleyball alums in Simone Lee, Kendall White, and Serena Gray won the bronze medal at the 2023 NORCECA Pan American Cup Sunday in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Lee was named the tournament’s Best Spiker after leading the U.S. women’s national team with 23 points (19 kills and four blocks) in a 3-1 win over the Dominican Republic in the bronze-medal match. Lee was easily one of the most consistent players for the U.S., leading her team in kills the last four matches.

The U.S. finished 5-1 in the 10-team tournament, losing in four sets to eventual champion Argentina in the semifinals. It was the country’s first gold medal in the event, which celebrated its 20th edition this year.

“I’m really excited,” Lee said after the win. “We were down in the fourth set, and we were able to come back really strong. I think that showed just a lot of our team’s grit and fight, especially after yesterday losing to Argentina, and to have such a big turnaround and play so well together as a team, it just makes this moment even sweeter.”

Lee signed a contract with Turkish club Sariyer Belediyesi for the 2023-24 season. She’s the only American currently on the roster. Lee has already played in Turkey, Germany, Japan, and Italy since turning pro in 2017 following two first-team AVCA All-American seasons as an upperclassman.

Lee helped the Nittany Lions win their most recent NCAA national championship as a freshman in 2014 in Oklahoma City, where she played alongside future Olympic gold medalists Micha Hancock and Haleigh Washington.

Lee and White were Penn State teammates for two seasons from 2016-17, while White and Gray played together with the Nittany Lions in 2018-19. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Penn State in three years, Gray transferred to Pitt for grad school and her final two seasons of eligibility.

A strong student who was routinely recognized for her academic prowess both at Penn State and Pitt, Gray signed with French club Béziers and will begin her pro career with the 2023-24 campaign. Gray was a four-time AVCA All-American during her college career, earning first-team distinction as a fifth-year senior for the Panthers last fall.

Last week’s Pan American Cup was Gray’s competitive debut for the U.S. women’s national team. Gray was joined on the team by fellow middle blockers Danielle Hart, Madeleine Gates, and Kayla Haneline

White, the Penn State career digs leader with 1,994, shared libero duties with UCLA and Texas standout Zoe Fleck. White has been a regular contributor for the U.S. women’s national team the last couple years, representing her country in this summer’s Volleyball Nations League, where the U.S. went 11-4 and finished fourth.

White was twice named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2018-19, receiving first-team AVCA All-American honors both seasons. She received honorable mention as a sophomore. White was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and was among the most enjoyable Penn State players to watch in recent memory.

After spending her first three pro seasons with French side Terville Florange Olympique Club, White signed with Athletes Unlimited for its upcoming fall season and is also a member of the Omaha Supernovas franchise of the new Pro Volleyball Federation coming in 2024. White will be teammates with Penn State alumna Nia Reed in Omaha.

At the youth level, Penn State commits Izzy Starck and Ava Falduto, both members of the program’s 2024 recruiting class, helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2023 NORCECA U19 Pan American Cup this May in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. women’s national team’s bronze-medal finish qualified it for the 2023 NORCECA Pan American Cup Final Six August 19-27 in the Dominican Republic.