Considering her family’s history with Penn State University, one would think it might be a forgone conclusion that Lainy Pierce would end up picking the Nittany Lions.
But other programs still tried.
Ohio State, North Carolina and Coastal Carolina were among many colleges that recruited Pierce, the junior standout for Eden who was named to the All-Western New York first team for the second straight season.
But in the end, she verbally committed to Penn State, where her parents were standout athletes and where older sister Kendall, herself a two-time first-team All-WNY selection at Eden, just completed her freshman season for the Nittany Lions (a season that extended to the NCAA Final Four).
“Kendall and I have always grown up around Penn State with both of our parents going there, and we were introduced to the campus really early — I think I was 9,” said Lainy. “I fell in love with the campus and it’s always been kind of my dream. When I thought of college, I thought of Penn State.”
Lainy’s father, Eden boys volleyball coach Robert, played volleyball at Penn State from 1985 to 1989. Her mother, Kiernan, was on the Penn State track and field team from 1984 to 1989.
Having Kendall go through the recruiting process then spend her freshman year at the school further familiarized Lainy with Penn State. Kendall chose to forgo scholarship offers from other schools, including Syracuse, for a walk-on opportunity at Penn State. Kendall not only earned her spot on the team but played in 29 of the Big Ten champions’ 125 games.
“It was a huge step with Kendall going to Penn State, seeing her and seeing how she reacted to everything,” said Lainy. “I’d think, if my sister can do it, I can do it too. Kendall and I are so close. I’ve done everything she’s done, from volleyball and track and training. I don’t want to be following in her footsteps the rest of my life, but it was great to hear all of her feedback about Penn State, to see another side of it.”
While Penn State was always an option, Lainy explored other opportunities in the recruiting process, which included her getting scholarship offers from Bowling Green and the University at Buffalo. “I told my parents, I want to make sure I have more options if something falls through [if Penn State only offered a walk-on position],” Lainy said. “I want to have a backup plan.”
Lainy has been offered a scholarship for at least one year.
“Things worked out with Penn State,” she said. “You have to maintain [the scholarship]. I’m going to work my butt off to try and get more of that [one year], but we’ll see.”
Throughout her high school career, Lainy has pummelled many of Eden’s opponents from the outside hitter position. This year she moved to setter and excelled. At Penn State, the 5-foot-8 Pierce will be a libero (defensive specialist), a position for which she’s been recruited by Division I programs going back to her younger days of club volleyball.
The varied positional experience will help her in her defensive role as she has an understanding of each position’s role in the offense.
“I learned how to set this year, and that gives you a whole different perspective on the game, going from outside to setting,” said Lainy. “I play libero in club volleyball because we have a really tall team. I’m so thankful for playing all of the positions. … It gives me more of a ‘volleyball IQ’ as my dad would say. I’m always thinking, ‘If I were a hitter, where would I want the ball set?’ And so on.”
The Eden program, coached on the girls side by her uncle, Stephen Pierce, won its fourth straight state championship this year, giving it 10 overall, which extended its own state record.
As for committing to Penn State: “I couldn’t be happier. This is where I wanted to go. I thank Eden volleyball, that and club, and my uncle and dad, who have made me who I am as a player and a person.”
Around the courts
• Joining Lainy Pierce as a repeat first-team All-Western New York selection are Grand Island’s Alex Brown and Williamsville East’s Erica Moser.
• St. Mary’s, represented by senior Samantha Giardina and sophomore standout Leah Meyer on the All-Western New York first team, was considered the top local team most of the year. The Lancers won their second straight state Catholic championship to give them a total of 13 state titles. They did not drop a set in Monsignor Martin play all season, including the playoffs, as a sweep of Immaculata (which didn’t lose to any other MMA team) capped off its 23rd league championship.
Among the Lancers who have determined their college destinations are Giardina, who will sign with Division II Mercyhurst, Amber Drzymala, who will play at Daemen, and Marlena Clotfelter, who will attend Medaille.
• In the prepvolleyball.com final national poll, St. Mary’s was the highest ranked team from New York State.
The Lancers were at No. 86 in the veteran site’s “Century Club.” Mercy of Section V (Rochester area), which won the Class AA NYPHSAA state championship, was one spot behind and the only other state team cited.