Aug. 9, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
As volleyball preseason sessions got underway Wednesday morning, head coach Alma Kovaci and her staff officially welcomed four members of the Class of 2016 to the fold. With the Black Knights' season-opener just over two weeks away, the talented new cadets will look to make a smooth transition to the collegiate level.
"This is a very good class for us in terms of size, power and athleticism," said Kovaci, who enters her sixth year at the helm. "All of them will have a role and I can't wait to see them back in the gym. They're joining a strong nucleus of returning players, but will do nothing but add talent to the equation."
The talent pool within the Class of 2016 focuses on the front row more than bolstering an already robust back row defense. Vanessa Edwards, Zoe Kreitenberg, Kaili Crow and Nicole Perri hail from three different states and will add depth to four different positions along Army's front line.
One of two USMA Prep School products in this recruiting class, Edwards comes to West Point as a decorated setter who will compliment 2011 Patriot League Setter of the Year Mary Vaccaro. A native of Sacramento, Calif., Edwards honed her craft playing for Force Volleyball Club and Cordova High School. A two-time team Most Valuable Player honoree, she garnered All-Capital League accolades and was MVP of the Optimist All-Star Game.
"Vanessa has great leadership potential, along with being a very athletic setter," Kovaci said. "She's a natural setter with amazing hands. Vanessa has the ability to connect with everybody, and I look forward to having her see significant playing time."
Edwards' father, Timothy, and mother, Michelle, both served in the military from the age of 18.
Kreitenberg joins a cast of middle blockers that includes two-time first team All-Patriot League honoree Megan Wilton. Hailing from Los Alamitos, Calif., Kreitenberg served as a two-time team captain at Sage Hill School and was twice named all-league and all-county. An Orange County All-Star and two-time Daily Pilot Dream Team selection, Kreitenberg was named the Orange County JCC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She helped lead Sage Hill to the CIF Southern Section title. She led the team in kills and blocks as a senior.
Kreitenberg trained on the club level with Tstreet, one of California's top clubs.
"Zoe will add size and depth to the middle position," Kovaci noted. "She runs tremendous slides and has great blocking ability."
Crow finds her way to West Point from Spring, Texas and is expected to vie for playing time at either outside or right side hitter. Crow earned all-district honors twice and was an Under Armor All-America nominee based on her play for Klein Collins High School. She also played for the Woodlands Wave on the club circuit under head coach Ray Gonzales. Crow garnered academic all-district honors three times and was nominated for the National Society of High School Scholars.
"Kaili can do it all, but we'll really look at her for the outside and right side positions," Kovaci said. "She has great ball control and is a good blocker."
Rounding out the Class of 2016 is Perri, a local product out of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. Perri spent the 2011-12 season at USMAPS and played for Downstate Juniors Volleyball Club under the watch of current Army assistant coach Stafford Barzey. A powerful outside hitter, she was Walter Pana High School's MVP, along with being an all-league and all-section performer. Perri also earned scholar-athlete recognition from 2007-2011.
"Nicole is a powerful hitter with incredible shots," Kovaci said. "She'll bring power to the outside hitter position."
The newcomers join a strong returning cast for the 2012 campaign, which gets underway Aug. 24-25 when Army looks to defend its Black Knights Invitational title. Quinnipiac, Indiana and Stony Brook make their way to the banks of the Hudson for the four-team event at Gillis Field House. This marks the fourth year in a row the Black Knights have opened the season with a home tournament. Admission for all regular-season home volleyball matches is free.