Girls volleyball: Penn State recruit Falduto a hit for ICCP team with sky-high aspirations

 
 
Updated 9/8/2022 8:11 PM

During the high school girls volleyball season, IC Catholic Prep's Ava Falduto transforms into a different type of outstanding player.

Instead of the energetic libero in club season who already has verbally committed to Penn State as a junior, the 5-foot-7 Falduto becomes a powerful outside hitter and full-rotation standout with her nearly four-foot vertical jump.

 

"I play libero for 10 months of my life so these two months for high school, it's a lot of fun and I get to play back row too," Falduto said. "It's a fun all-around experience."

The Knights have high hopes after reaching the Class 2A sectional finals last season before losing to state champion Montini. Falduto had 12 kills in the season opener, and followed that up with a spectacular 30-kill, 20-dig performance in a three-set win over St. Francis on Tuesday.

"It's rare to find somebody who has her talent that is just completely selfless," ICCP coach Nancy Kerrigan said. "Every day in practice she's the hardest worker in the gym. She's one of those leaders. It's just as important to see her teammates, her friends succeed as it is for her."

Falduto was the starting libero as a freshman until a late-season ankle injury to a starting outside hitter changed everything. Kerrigan's best option was asking Falduto to switch positions.

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"The minute I called her towards me, her face lit up, she ran at me and (said), 'Yes, I'll do it,' " Kerrigan said.

"I knew (the question) was coming," recalled Falduto, who gladly has continued the role. "We have a really good libero, too, (Alysa Lawton) and she's doing awesome. It's worked out really well that she gets the opportunity and I get this opportunity."

Under first-season head coach and Mother McAuley graduate Katie Schumacher-Cawley, Penn State contacted Falduto June 15, the first possible day. After considering other Big Ten Conference programs, Falduto committed three days later while in Florida playing with New Wave at the Amateur Athletic Union nationals.

"My whole team was in the background. They got to see me commit so it was really cool," Falduto said. "I knew (Penn State was) my first choice. It felt special there, as soon as I went there."

On Falduto's first club team, she was an 8-year-old on the 11s team. She attended matches of older sister Kaitlyn, a 2017 ICCP graduate, with current setter Lucy Russ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Ever since about seventh grade, I stopped playing softball and it was volleyball all the way," Falduto said. "I think it's the speed of the game that really gets me excited and being on the floor, running around. It's amazing."

This summer, Falduto started a new braids hairstyle handled now by teammates Jillian Kamaryt and Kiely Kemph. There's also a poster signed by all varsity and junior varsity players about their summer trip to Michigan City, Ind., brought to every match.

"It reminds us why we play together," Falduto said.

Benet's Novak back at full strength:

Benet junior Ava Novak made a difficult decision during club season. The college prospect and captain for her Sports Performance 16 Elite team sat out AAU nationals to fully recover from tendinitis in her right knee.

"Personally, I felt like I was letting the team down. You work the whole season for that one specific tournament," Novak said. "It was such a letdown but I knew I wanted to ensure a stable future."

On Aug. 27, the 6-3 front-row standout helped the Redwings (6-0) win Wheaton North's Blue and Gold Tournament. Novak joined sophomore teammate Aniya Warren on the all-tournament team.

"Last year we were super young (with four seniors). We just feel really comfortable already," Novak said. "I decided to play it safe so I could be 100% again and that's where I am right now."

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