Palmer Trinity senior Paulina Prieto is graduating in December so she can begin attending Pennsylvania State University in January and join the school’s five-time national champions volleyball team.
Prieto was recruited heavily by Penn State and most other top volleyball schools. She signed her letter of intent to go to Penn State on Nov. 9.
“Supposedly my coach [Russ Rose] had heard about me on the Internet,” she said. “There are two Puerto Ricans on the guys’ volleyball team. And he asked them about me. He started going to my games when I was VB Rags (a club team in Puerto Rico).”
She said she was about to commit to the University of Texas at Austin when Penn State came into the picture.
“I really loved that school,” she said. “It was really tough. I literally had all the colleges I wanted, wanting me.”
She says it came down to the University of Washington at Seattle, the University of Florida, Texas and Penn State. Once she winnowed her choices down to two, the decision was even harder because she loved both.
“It all came down to little things,” she said. “Because the big things are amazing.”
Prieto said she already has purchased winter clothes and books for her move to Happy Valley. She’s looking forward to being in a totally new environment, one that is different from her high school.
“I wanted to have a new experience, to go to a big school,” she said.
However, one of the things she loves about Palmer is the campus’ lush landscaping. She said she realized she also wanted that touch of nature at the college she attends.
“At Penn State, that is one of the main things I liked about it; it has trees and mountains.”
This is not the first time Prieto has a made a major move. She moved to Miami from Puerto Rico in time to start seventh grade at Palmer. She already was almost six feet tall and then she had a growth spurt that took her to six-feet-two.
“If you are an offensive player you have to be tall,” she said with a laugh.
She has played on Palmer’s varsity team since seventh grade, helping it win the district title five years in a row. During her ninth grade year Palmer went all the way to the volleyball state championship finals.
“No team in Miami had gone to state finals since 1995,” she said. “It was rewarding.”
This year, Palmer beat its big rival, Westminster to take the district title but lost to Westminster in the regional semifinals, which knocked it out of the playoffs.
As most serious athletes, Prieto also played on a club team. In fact, in 10th grade she played for a Puerto Rican club team.
“I would fly on the weekends,” she said. “It was a very hard year in academics. That’s why I decided to play for Boomers in 11th grade.”
This summer she played on the USA Youth National Team. The team spent time in Arizona for the High Performance Championships and the trained in New York for three weeks before going to Turkey for a championship series.
Her goal is to make the USA Olympic team.
“I would be the first Puerto Rican to play on the USA team,” she said. “When I was in Turkey, I thought about Puerto Rico every game and thought I represented both [countries].”