West Xtra: Ambridge volleyball standout signs with Penn State

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What do Penn State men's volleyball coach Mark Pavlik and Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neil Huntington have in common?

"I'm following Neil Huntington's strategy of having a strong bullpen," said Pavlik, when asked about his latest recruit. "I'm always looking for good 'arms.' And Lee Smith certainly fills that bill."

Smith, a senior outside hitter and four-year starter at Ambridge Area High School, is considered the WPIAL's top player. He's been voted to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AAA All-State Team three times.

"I made my decision three days before the first day of the early-signing period," said Smith, who officially signed his letter-of-intent on Nov. 13. "I visited four schools and found that Penn State was the best fit for me."

Smith, an Economy resident, also made official recruiting visits to Ohio State, George Mason and Lewis University.

"I had been to Penn State before for tournaments and I loved everything about the place," Smith said. "And I might get a chance to play with Nick Goodell."

Goodell, a 2010 Ambridge graduate, is a 6-foot-4 redshirt junior outside hitter for the Nittany Lions.

"I was in eighth grade when Nick was a senior, so we never got to play together," Smith said. "It would be great to play on the same team with him, but that depends on whether I redshirt the first year."

Pavlik, a Derry Area graduate, got to see Smith in action the past two years at the PIAA Class AA tournament, which concludes at Penn State University every year.

"We are pleased to welcome Lee to the team," Pavlik said. "I am excited for his future as he brings a tradition of winning from Ambridge High School and coach Glenn Freed."

Pavlik hasn't decided whether Smith will redshirt as a freshman.

"I'm sure Lee would welcome a chance to play as a true freshman and team up with Nick [Goodell], but we may decide to redshirt him," Pavlik said. "That decision will come after we see how quickly he adapts to the speed of college volleyball.

"Lee's skills in hitting and blocking will aid him as he develops at the collegiate level. He is a competitor who has been successful at every level in which he has been involved and I am sure that will continue as a Nittany Lion."

Smith also chose Penn State because of its fine reputation in engineering.

"I want to pursue an engineering degree, maybe civil engineering," Smith said. "And Penn State has a very good engineering program."

At Ambridge, Smith has led the Bridgers to back-to-back WPIAL Class AA titles.

"We tied for third in the PIAA my sophomore year and finished second last year," Smith said. "Our goal for my senior season is to win WPIAL and PIAA titles."

His next goal is to become an NCAA Division I champion.

"Another reason I chose Penn State was that it gave me the best chance to play on an NCAA championship team," Smith said. "That's my ultimate goal."

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