Allie Burke got her first taste of volleyball on a whim, attending a clinic the summer before ninth grade at the suggestion of her cousin.
“She was like, ‘Come with me, it will be fun,’ so I showed up,” Burke said.
At 5-foot-10, Burke, who grew up playing basketball, caught the eye of South coach Kurt Godfrey, and at the encouragement of several players, she went out for the team. It turned out to be a perfect fit.
The 6-foot-2 middle hitter – a captain of the Titans’ basketball team this winter – recently signed a letter of intent to play Division I volleyball at American University.
“Honestly, it still surprises me that I can do it,” said Burke, choosing the Patriot League school over another Patriot League school, Colgate. “I thought it would push me to be the best I can be in volleyball.
“American was closer to my house, which was part of it. I also was outside of my comfort zone being in D.C. I have lived in this little town my whole life, so I was like – I should branch out and do something new. It’s obviously different, but I think it will be a really good experience to live near D.C.”
Burke was one of nine CB South seniors recognized for committing to play collegiate sports.
Colin Bernstein and Tyler Horvath will both continue their lacrosse careers at perennial Division III power Stockton University. Bernstein, who will major in business, chose Stockton from a list that included Drexel, High Point, Manhattan, Bellarmine and Cabrini.
“Me and Ty had our overnight together, and it was just an amazing atmosphere,” Bernstein said. “The team bond is a like a family, which is what I was looking for in a college team.
“I played lacrosse since fourth grade when I moved to Warrington, and I just fell in love with the sport.”
Horvath, who also considered Cabrini and Ursinus, will major in business/finance.
“The lacrosse team there was my favorite, and Stockton has a top-ranked business program,” said Horvath, a faceoff specialist. “When I became a faceoff guy and began focusing on faceoffs, that’s when I started practicing and got better. Colleges started hitting me up, and I was in.”
Joe Martino will continue his baseball career at West Chester University, his top choice from the beginning.
“I received an offer to a couple of D-III schools, and then West Chester gave me an offer, and I just ended the process there,” Martino said. “West Chester is a two-time national champion, so they have a good baseball program. It’s not too far from home, but it’s far enough.”
Playing in college has always been a goal.
“But I didn’t know I’d be this serious about it,” Martino said. “The state championship run last year for South – I feel like that really gave me a lot of confidence. A lot of thanks to Coach (Brian) Klumpp, who really helped my game out.”
A trio of seniors will play collegiate softball. Ally McDaid and Olivia Robinson will both attend Widener University.
McDaid, who plans to major in nursing, also considered Jefferson University, but Widener provided an opportunity to play softball.
“I just thought it was a better fit, and I was really happy to be able to do both because nursing is a really hard major to play sports with, but they make it work,” McDaid said. “I always thought about it because I could never imagine not playing.
“I like being busy, so I didn’t want to have down time. This gives me something to do, and it’s how I make all my friends.”
Robinson, who was also considering Alvernia and Kutztown, will also major in nursing.
“Once I went to Widener and I met the coaches and got a feel for what it’s going to be like there, I fell in love with it the second I walked on campus,” Robinson said. “I was late figuring out what I wanted to do. I always wanted to go to Penn State or Pitt and didn’t really think about softball too much.
“People were telling me I could do it, and I thought about it – I don’t want to give it up yet. I don’t want it to be my last time walking on the field at the end of the season.”
Sophia DeFebo, who plans to major in psychology, chose Misericordia University from a final list that included Penn State Abington and Immaculata.
“I like it because of the location, and they had the major I really like,” DeFebo said. “I think I connected with the coaches best at Misericordia.”
DeFebo began seriously considering the possibility of playing in college when she was a sophomore.
“I didn’t want to stop after my senior year,” she said. “I started emailing coaches, and one thing led to another. I was offered – it was a big day.”
Madelyn Cooper will continue her field hockey career at Ursinus College. She also considered Widener, Gwynedd Mercy, Washington & Jefferson and Wesleyan (Conn).
“I know it sounds cliché, but when I walked on campus, it just felt like a good fit for me,” said Cooper, who plans to double major in mathematics and government. “Not only is the team a great environment and it has a really competitive field hockey program, but it also put me in a great place for after college in terms of finding a good career for me. It just felt like the best place for me to thrive.”
Cooper – who aspired to play at the collegiate level since she was a freshman – was kept on the jayvee as a sophomore. She was not deterred.
“It was totally the right move by the coaches, and I also was put on a different team for my club team,” Cooper said. “Really that year was the biggest transition year for me because it motivated me to work really hard. At the same time, I started going to clinics and scouting tournaments, so I think that motivation to work really hard that year helped me see that I could play in college.”
Aidan O’Brien will continue his volleyball career at Stevenson University, choosing the Baltimore, Md., school from a list that included Kean, Concordia-Irvine and Mount Olive.
“They say when you go to the campus you’re going to end up at, you can get the feel once you’re there,” said O’Brien, who will major in business/marketing. “As soon as I stepped on the campus, I knew that was home for the next four years.
“After talking to the coaches, I knew it was a great match for me for the athletic intensity I want to keep and also the business opportunities after college.”
O’Brien, like Burke, did not play volleyball until ninth grade.
“I was a bench player on jayvee, but after playing club my sophomore year and wanting to get better, I think that’s when it really clicked for me – this could be a future for me in college,” O’Brien said.