The Penn State women’s volleyball program recently updated its online roster to reflect the addition of its nine newcomers and their jersey numbers for the 2023 season.
Mac Podraza, Jess Mruzik, Camryn Hannah, Lina Perugini, and Ally Van Eekeren joined the Nittany Lions this offseason via the transfer portal, while Karis Willow, Joce Nathan, Catherine Burke, and Kate Lally comprise Penn State’s freshman class.
The freshmen arrived on campus last weekend and attended a welcome event for Penn State’s new student-athletes before beginning summer classes Wednesday. All five of the upperclassmen enrollees already received their undergraduate degrees, and in Perugini’s case, her MBA, before moving to State College.
The Nittany Lions tied the Athletes Unlimited pros 2-2 in an exhibition on April 21 at Rec Hall, despite only having 10 players on the roster in the spring. Their 2023 regular-season schedule features 29 matches and will begin on August 25 against Florida at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, site of this year’s Final Four.
We recently caught up with Podraza, Mruzik, Perugini, and Van Eekeren for exclusive interviews before they enrolled at Penn State, where they discussed their decision to pick the Nittany Lions, their relationship with the coaching staff, and their goals for the summer. You can also read our previous interviews from 2022 with Willow, Nathan, and Burke.
Below is a rundown of all nine newcomers featuring an early look at what fans might see from them this season. Player-led scrimmages and youth summer camps will keep the Nittany Lions plenty busy in July, leading up to preseason training camp in August, but it offers a chance to build chemistry and teach the game to the next generation.
Mac Podraza 5
Hometown: Sunbury, Ohio
High school: Big Walnut
Previous college: Ohio State
Last Penn State player to wear No. 5: Seleisa Elisaia
2023 outlook: Podraza, the reigning Big Ten Setter of the Year, made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when she committed to Penn State for her fifth year of eligibility. A three-time AVCA All-American with the Buckeyes, Podraza will again be among the nation’s best setters heading into the fall. Podraza, Indiana’s Camryn Haworth, and Minnesota’s Melani Shaffmaster were first-team All-Big Ten selections in 2022, while Leisa Elisaia landed on the second team. Podraza is the type of setter who will elevate the play of Penn State’s deep stable of hitters. Get ready for an extremely fun season at Rec Hall with Podraza leading the offense.
Camryn Hannah 8
Position: Right-side hitter
Hometown: Lansing, Illinois
High school: Marist
Previous college: Clemson
Last Penn State player to wear No. 8: Erika Williams
2023 outlook: Hannah had a very productive career with the Tigers, tallying 961 kills, 419 digs, and 108 total blocks in three seasons. She twice earned second-team All-ACC recognition, including a standout freshman year that also featured AVCA All-American honorable mention. Hannah will compete for playing time at right-side hitter with Zoe Weatherington, who will represent Penn State alongside Allie Holland at Big Ten volleyball media days August 1-2 in Chicago. Katie Schumacher-Cawley clearly knows the importance of securing talent from her home state of Illinois, and Hannah’s pickup should not be overlooked.
Jess Mruzik 9
Position: Outside hitter
Hometown: Livonia, Michigan
High school: Mercy
Previous college: Michigan
Last Penn State player to wear No. 9: Katie Hurta
2023 outlook: Coming off back-to-back first-team All-Big Ten selections with the Wolverines and AVCA All-American honorable mention in 2021, Mruzik’s addition to the Penn State program drew considerable attention. Following the All-American campaign of Kashauna Williams in her lone season with the Nittany Lions, the team needed an outside hitter who can terminate at an elite level to pair with talented returners Alexa Markley and Anjelina Starck. Mruzik, who had 946 kills, 609 digs, and 132 total blocks in three seasons in Ann Arbor, is one of the most impressive six-rotation players in the country. Mruzik and Hannah both have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Ally Van Eekeren 13
Hometown: Naperville, Illinois
High school: Benet Academy
Previous colleges: Creighton, High Point
Last Penn State player to wear No. 13: Gabby Blossom
2023 outlook: Van Eekeren will push Podraza for reps at setter this summer and gives the Nittany Lions another highly accomplished player at the position. After being named the 2022 Big South Setter of the Year and leading High Point to the NCAA tournament, Van Eekeren opted to use her fifth season of eligibility at Penn State, saying she wanted to be a part of the program since she was 10 years old. Van Eekeren and Podraza visited campus the same weekend and got to know each other better before they both committed to the Nittany Lions in late January. Penn State easily has one of the best setter groups in the country.
Lina Perugini 15
Position: Defensive specialist
Hometown: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
High school: Liberty
Previous college: Coastal Carolina
Last Penn State player to wear No. 15: Jenna Hampton
2023 outlook: Perugini originally walked on at Coastal Carolina before earning a scholarship and becoming one of the cornerstones of the program as a four-year starter at libero for the Chanticleers. Perugini twice earned second-team All-Sun Belt recognition and has by far the most career digs of any defensive specialist on Penn State’s 2023 roster with 1,674. She also had 363 assists during her tenure in Conway, South Carolina, showcasing her well-rounded skills as a passer. A high-motor player, Perugini will compete with Maddy Bilinovic, Gillian Grimes, and Cassie Kuerschen for the libero job, and is likely to play a significant role regardless.
Karis Willow 4
Position: Outside hitter
Hometown: Arlington, Ohio
High school: Liberty-Benton
Last Penn State player to wear No. 4: Lexi Skripek
2023 outlook: Willow was one of Ohio’s best high jumpers during her high school career, finishing third in the state at the OHSAA Division II meet this spring. She also played basketball as a senior. Willow’s athleticism, impressive size, and versatility in the front row could allow her to make an impact as a freshman for the Nittany Lions, but the team’s veteran depth means she won’t be required to play right away. If Willow earns a spot in the rotation in 2023, it’s because she proved too good to keep on the sidelines. Although she’s listed primarily as an outside hitter, Willow and fellow freshman Catherine Burke will compete for the third middle blocker spot behind starters Allie Holland and Taylor Trammell. Senior right-side hitter Macy Van Den Elzen may also be in the mix there.
Kate Lally 6
Hometown: State College, Pennsylvania
High school: State College Area
Last Penn State player to wear No. 6: Mandi Morioka
2023 outlook: Lally was the final commitment of Penn State’s 2023 recruiting class, as the local standout from State High picked the Nittany Lions on February 21 after previously being committed to the University of Toronto. Lally, who has dual citizenship between the U.S. and Canada, gives the Nittany Lions a fourth setter on the roster who can learn from Podraza, Van Eekeren, and Quinn Menger. Lally is the first State College product to join the program since Taylor Leath used her final season of eligibility with the Nittany Lions in 2018 as a graduate transfer from North Carolina. Lally will have the chance to acclimate to college and see how her older teammates operate on a daily basis as a freshman.
Joce Nathan 11
Position: Defensive specialist
Hometown: Wilmington, Delaware
High school: Wilmington Friends School
Last Penn State player to wear No. 11: Katie Clark
2023 outlook: The Nittany Lions will have one of the best defensive specialist rotations in the Big Ten this season with Grimes, Bilinovic, Perugini, and Kuerschen all boasting significant experience at the college level. Nathan can lean on them for advice on the intricacies of the position and the importance of taking care of the little things off the court, like utilizing the training room and watching film. Nathan is known for having an aggressive serve, which may allow her to earn playing time as a freshman, but it’s unlikely she will have to fill a sizable role immediately given the depth ahead of her in the backcourt. It will be exciting to see how Nathan improves her game during player-led training this summer.
Catherine Burke 23
Position: Middle blocker
Hometown: Glenview, Illinois
High school: Loyola Academy
Last Penn State player to wear No. 23: Kashauna Williams
2023 outlook: Burke played for the same club program as Grimes, Adversity, which is based out of Vernon Hills, Illinois. After visiting campus and watching a practice last August, Burke committed to the Nittany Lions after initially pledging to Syracuse earlier in her recruitment process. Although Penn State has one of the premier middle blocker duos in the Big Ten in Trammell and Holland, a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior last season, Burke’s addition to the program is important for several reasons. Of course, she provides another tall presence in the middle during practice, but just ask Penn State’s coaching staff how crucial Katie Clark proved to be in 2022 following Trammell’s left-foot injury. Trammell and Holland are great resources for Burke to help adjust to the speed of the college game.