Volleyball Welcomes Six Newcomers as Preseason Practice Begins

Morgan Cleevely, Giovanna Kuntze, Brooklen Pe'a, Ashley Starzyk, Alexia Byrnes and Kaybrie Pe'a
Morgan Cleevely, Giovanna Kuntze, Brooklen Pe'a, Ashley Starzyk, Alexia Byrnes and Kaybrie Pe'a

The Youngstown State volleyball team held its first preseason practice on Thursday, and six newcomers joined 10 returners as the Penguins began preparation for the 2018 season.

The six new student-athletes include setter Alexia Byrnes, defensive specialist Morgan Cleevely, setter Giovanna Kuntze, right-side hitter Brooklen Pe'a, outside hitter Kaybrie Pe'a and middle blocker Ashley Starzyk.

"I am extremely excited to welcome this new group of players to our roster," YSU head coach Aline Scott said. "Being from different parts of the country and the world, they will help to add dimension, experience and competitiveness to our group. Each of them brings not only a solid skill set to the court, but also a determined mindset that will enhance the culture we have been working hard to create and sustain. I am thrilled to finally have all of them in the gym to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together."

Kuntze is the only non-freshman among the newcomers. Originally from Rio de Janiero, Brazil, she is a junior who transferred to YSU from Seward County Community College. Byrnes is also a transfer setter, having spent a redshirt season at the University of Louisville. Cleevely is from nearby Canfield, the Pe'a ladies are twin sisters from Bountiful, Utah, and Starzyk hails from Milan, N.Y.

The Penguins reported to camp earlier this week and spent Wednesday meeting with individuals from across campus and holding their annual photo day. The team did a fitness test as part of a morning workout, and it spent the afternoon focusing on passing and team serve receive. The Penguins have 10 days of practice scheduled before the first day of classes on Aug. 22, and their season opener will be Aug. 24 at the Bucknell Invitational.

Below are brief biographies on the six newcomers.


Alexia Byrnes

S | 5-10 | R-Fr. | Lisle, Ill. | Saint Francis H.S. | Louisville (previously announced in February)

2017: Redshirted as a member of the volleyball program at Louisville.

High School: Earned five letters and was team captain three years as a setter and right-side hitter while helping Saint Francis win three state championships... Named one of the top 20 setters in the country in 2015-16 by Prep Volleyball, and she was twice named All-Girls Catholic Athletic Conference in 2016 and 2017... Set school records for most aces and blocks per game... Was a setter for the Chicago Volleyball All Star Game in 2016, and in 2015 she played for the USA Girls Youth Continental Team Program where she earned all-tournament honors... Played club ball for Fusion under Coach Mike Bui... High school coach was Lisa Ston.

Personal: Parents are Tim, Chris and Jennifer... Has two brother (Peter and Austin) and a sister (Laura)... Academic interest is psychology.


Morgan Cleevely

DS | 5-6 | Fr. | Canfield, Ohio | Canfield H.S.

High School: Earned four letters and was team captain one year for the Cardinals... Was a two-time all-district selection and was an All-American Conference honoree once... Was a senior representative at the All-State Game... Played club ball for Infinity under coach Curt Conser.

Personal: Parents are Bob and Tammie... Has three sisters (Ashlyn, Kaelyn and Madison)... Both of her parents and her sister Ashlyn all attended YSU... Academic interest is undecided.


Giovanna Kuntze

S | 5-9 | Jr. | Rio de Janiero, Brazil | Colegio Sao Vincente de Paulo | Seward County CC

Seward County CC: Was a First-Team NJCAA All-American and the MVP of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference in 2017... Ranked fourth nationally in both total assists (1,242) and assists per set (10.80)... Helped lead the Lady Saints to a nation-leading 18.7 points per set... Also averaged 2.72 digs per set in 2017... Seward County went 32-3, won the Jayhawk West for the second straight year and ranked as high as third in the country.... Totaled 1,726 career assists at Seward County, which ranks seventh in program history... Earned KJCCC All-Academic honors... Played for coach Thais Baziquetto-Allen.

High School: Registered 570 assists, 215 digs and 20 aces as a senior at Colegio Sao Vincene de Paulo in Brazil.

Personal: Parents are Frederico and Gisela... Has two brothers (Igor and Raphael)... Academic interest is business.


Brooklen Pe'a

RS | 6-0 | Fr. | Bountiful, Utah | Bountiful H.S.

High School: Earned four letters and was team captain one year... Registered a .307 attack percentage, 3.4 kills per set, 325 total kills and 273 digs... Led Class 5A in kills... Named All-State 5A First Team by the Salt Lake Tribune and All-State First Team by the Deseret News... Also named to the Salt Lake Tribune's All-Tribune Team... Earned Female Athlete of the Week honors at the state level... Named a Standard Star by the Standard Examiner... Helped lead Bountiful to four straight regional championships, state titles in 2015 and 2016 as well as a runner-up finish in 2017... Named to the Honor Roll and Citizenship Honor Roll... Played club for Wave Volleyball and coach Brennan Dean.

Personal: Parents are Ata and Angie... Has four sisters (Marley, Atiana, Anaiah and Kaybrie)... Sister Kaybrie is her twin and teammate at YSU... Academic interest is sports medicine.


Kaybrie Pe'a

OH | 5-11 | Fr. | Bountiful, Utah | Bountiful H.S.

High School: Earned three letters and was team captain one year... Named Second-Team All-State in Class 5A by the Deseret News and First-Team All-State by another publication... Helped lead Bountiful to four straight regional championships, state titles in 2015 and 2016 as well as a runner-up finish in 2017... Played club for Wave Volleyball and coach Brennan Dean.

Personal: Parents are Ata and Angie... Has four sisters (Marley, Atiana, Anaiah and Brooklen)... Sister Brooklen is her twin and teammate at YSU... Academic interest is undecided.


Ashley Starzyk

MB | 6-3 | Fr. | Milan, N.Y. | Stissing Mountain H.S.

High School: Earned five varsity letters... Played club volleyball for USANY and coaches Robert Crispi and Maria Anderson... Was a star on the basketball court, being named the Class C Player of the Year twice... Was also the MHAL Division 4 Player of the Year and a four-time all-section honoree... Served as Co-President of the National Society and was an advocate for Unified Basketball, a Special Olympics organization.

Personal: Parents are Richard and Noel... Has a brother (Richard) and a sister (Isabella)... Academic interest is environmental studies.