One of five members of the 2016 Penn volleyball recruiting class, Portland, Ore., native Ariana Wiltjer will look to compete for playing time early on as coach Kerry Carr looks to replace graduating senior middle blocker Michellie McDonald-O'Brien.

Credit: Courtesy of Ariana Wiltjer

On Tuesday, Penn volleyball and coach Kerry Carr announced the five members of the 2016 recruiting class, including Ariana Wiltjer, a middle blocker from Portland, Ore. The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with Wiltjer about why she chose Penn, what she brings to the Red and Blue and, most importantly, what she would do if she won the Powerball.

Daily Pennsylvanian: What other schools were you choosing from, and what were you looking for in a school?

Ariana Wiltjer: I was actually looking at a really broad range of schools. I’m from Oregon, so I looked at a lot of [West Coast Conference] schools like Gonzaga and University of San Francisco. And I also looked at the other Ivies. My other two main ones were Yale and Harvard. And then besides that, I looked at bigger volleyball programs, but not as good schools, like Kansas, schools like that. But the main thing I was looking for in a school was a really good degree, really strong academics, so that’s what drew me to the Ivies so much.

DP: So why Penn, over Harvard and the other Ivies?

AW: During Spring Break last year I took a bunch of unofficial visits to a few of the Ivies. I really loved the atmosphere that Kerry creates. Kerry was really welcoming, so were the rest of the girls. I also really liked the trainer, and that’s important for me, because I was out of volleyball for a while because of a concussion, so getting back in shape is especially important to me. And I loved the campus and the team chemistry. ... All the girls are so close.

DP: So which of the players did you get a chance to connect with?

AW: I stayed with Michellie [McDonald O’Brien] the first time, and then my official visit I stayed with Brooke Behrbaum, which is cool because I’m going to Engineering and she’s in Engineering right now, and she’s also from the Northwest.

DP: So did you get a chance to know some of the people in your recruiting class who you’ll now be playing with?

AW: Yeah, I actually got to meet all of them during the official visit, which was super cool because it worked out that we were all able to fit into our schedules to come the same weekend, and we all instantly connected which was amazing — I love all of them. We all talk still because we have a group message and everything.

DP: What are some of your biggest strengths?

AW: I’d say my biggest strength is my arm swing, my hitting.

DP: And things you want to work on?

AW: The thing I want work on the most is getting in peak shape, improving my jump and quickness, since I’m a middle blocker.

DP: Your brother Kyle plays college basketball at Gonzaga, and is an NBA prospect. Has he been able to give you any advice on Division I athletics?

AW: Yeah, definitely. Me and my brother are really close. And he’s really real with me in the fact that he always tells me when I need to suck it up and work harder. He’s always direct with me, which is really cool, because he’s a really good role model. And being able to see how hard he works and how far he’s come in the past year is something that’s really good for me. He definitely talks to me a lot about how tough it is to balance school and D-I athletics. Especially because he’s already graduated and is working on a masters, so he’s in some really tough classes right now. So he just tells me how you just gotta push through and always work harder.

DP: What three items would you bring to a deserted island other than food and water?

AW: My phone, and — I don’t know what else. Like a book, maybe, and um —

DP: A volleyball?

AW: Yeah, a volleyball.

DP: What would you do if you won Powerball? And you’re not allowed to say “help others.”

AW: I would probably invest it first, and then I’d buy my family a house.

DP: How many times can you listen to a song you really like before you end up hating it and skipping it every time?

AW: A lot. Probably like a hundred times. I can listen to a song a bunch of times if I’m really in love with it.

DP: What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

AW: Fruit.

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