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Penn's middle-blocking prospects of the Class of 2005 will try to impact the Ivy League in a manner similar to Quakers senior Kelly Szczerba, a first team All-Ivy selection in 2000. Andrew Margolies/SP File Photo

After posting the program's best record since 1987 last year, the Penn volleyball team will miss its graduating seniors in the upcoming 2001 season.

Except that there aren't any. The Quakers will return all 15 members of last year's campaign, and add a number of new players in 2001, most of which will play on the newly-created junior varsity team.

"We have a list of 19 people coming on August 23, and there's going to be three people joining them once school starts," Penn coach Kerry Major said. "But only 15 people will travel with the varsity."

As a result of keeping everyone from last year's team, Major's recruiting effort for the 2001 season was more directed towards the future of Penn volleyball.

"I was looking for kids that would come in and replace our three graduating seniors [in 2002], even though I have been recruiting for that over the years," Major said. "All these girls are players that will someday down the line improve the level of our program."

From the Class of 2005, there are four top recruits that could contend for positions on the varsity squad -- Lynzy Caton, Tina Tsou, Natalie Francis and Jessica Tunstill.

Literally standing out among the four is Caton, a middle-blocking recruit from Presentation in Northern California who passed on a number of full athletic scholarships to attend Penn.

"Her father's around seven foot, but she's not that tall," Major joked.

She is 6'1", however, and will certainly be a force to deal with in the Ivy League in years to come not only as a middle blocker, but also as a player with a very complete game.

"[Lynzy] can play front row and backrow, serves well and is an effective blocker," Presentation coach Jim Reilly said of his team's four-year starter and two-time MVP. "She hits the slide set -- [which requires a] one-footed takeoff -- as well as anyone in Northern California."

And along with that physical talent is mental focus and determination.

"I will personally miss her work ethic and attitude," Reilly said. "She was fun to be around and worked extremely hard."

Major was also impressed with the first team All-Central Coast Section selection.

"She has great movement and she's very smart in placing the ball," Major said of Caton. "She kind of follows in [Penn sophomore] Heather Janssen's footsteps -- someone that might be able to contend right away for that position."

Someone who has already followed in the 6'2" middle blocker's footsteps is Tsou, who attended the same high school -- Monta Vista -- that Janssen did. The former Matadors will reunite as Quakers teammates in 2001. Tsou, however, will impact the team in a different way than Janssen.

"[Tina] came to our volleyball camp last year and impressed me with her ball control and her armswing," Major said of the outside hitter. "She's not a Katie Brandt power or Stephanie Horan power, but rather more like Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan is."

Major also noted that Tsou would have to "change some things" before seeing serious playing time, but she may come in defensively in the backrow because of her ball control skills.

Hailing from the same club team in San Francisco as Caton and Tsou is Francis, a 5'11" right-side strong blocker.

"Although we have two girls in that position... already next year, I just couldn't turn such a good athlete away," Major said. "She's going to follow in their footsteps and she's a good backup middle for us."

Rounding out the key recruits is Tunstill, who is fairly tall by collegiate standards for a setter.

"Jessica is a tall setter at 5'11", which we haven't had in the program before," Major said. "But she lacks the experience that our two current setters have, so it'll be great that she can come in and train as a 5-1 setter with the JV team for half a year or a year until she gains what she needs in order to challenge that position.

"She also hits as well, so we're not quite sure what she's going to develop into."

Currently occupying the quarterback position on Penn's side of the net are senior Jodie Antypas and sophomore Meghan Schloat, both of whom saw a lot of time last year.

And while these four recruits may not find themselves in the starting six often during their freshman years, they will add depth to a Penn volleyball program that will have a legitimate shot at winning its first Ivy League title since 1990.

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