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Jan. 5, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina head volleyball coach Ben Somera has added four new student-athletes to his roster for the 2010 campaign. Cara Howley (McKinney, Texas), Kellie Schmidt (Lexington, S.C.), Frankie Vain (St. Louis, Mo.) and Paige Wheeler (Virginia Beach, Va.) make up the new additions.

“We are excited to add these four players to our 2010 roster,” said Somera. “They bring a good mix of skill, size and athleticism to our team.”

Howley is a 6-0 outside hitter from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area. A three-year letterwinner at McKinney Boyd High School, Howley was the District 8-5A MVP in 2009 and won all-tournament honors in each of her three seasons of volleyball. The Dallas Morning News also named her first-team all-area in 2009. A National Honor Society member, Howley was recognized for both academic excellence and volunteer work at MBHS, while she also holds the Lady Broncos’ high jump record. She played with the Skyline Juniors Roshambo club, helping them to a No. 1 ranking in the region in 2009. She earned the most improved player award in 2007, the coaches’ award in 2008 and the most blocks award in 2009 for the club.

“Cara has played high level club matches throughout her career,” commented Somera. “Her club used her as a middle blocker for most of her career, but we plan on training her as an outside hitter. Her ability to handle the ball and attack at a variety of tempos should translate well to our offensive system and make her an option as either a left or right side player.”

Schmidt comes to South Carolina after a standout four-year career at Lexington High School. She led the Lady Wildcats to the 4A Lower State championship in 2009, making 516 kills during the season. Her squad tied for third in the state in 2008 and won its region in 2007. The 5-10 outside hitter has reaped the awards this year, taking state Gatorade Player of the Year, the state Coaches of Women’s Sports (CAWS) 4A Player of the Year and The State Area 4A Player of the Year honors. A three-time SCCAWS and HSSR all-state team member and a three-time region player of the year, Schmidt has also been an honor roll member at LHS. A member of the Magnum Volleyball club in Columbia, she also won the bronze at the Columbia City Swim Meet in the 200-meter free relay.

“Kellie has had an astounding high school career, and we will try to acclimate her to college volleyball quickly,” Somera remarked. “She is touching 10-1 without any weight training, so she definitely has the athleticism to compete in the SEC. Her jumping ability will add a high flying attacker and blocker to our mix of outside hitters.”

A 6-2 middle blocker, Vain lettered four years for Shane Weber at Villa Duchesne in St. Louis, Mo. A 2009 first-team all-state and 2008 honorable mention all-state selection, Vain led her squad to consecutive district titles in 2008 and 2009. The team finished second in 2009 with a 31-7-2 mark, averaging 5.34 kills per set while hitting at a .463 clip. She also blocked 210 attacks during her senior season after making 178 blocks as a junior. Twice named athlete of the week by the St. Louis Post Dispatch while also garnering selection to the outlet’s 2009 all-metro first team, Vain earned all-district and all-region honors in both 2008 and 2009. Vain played with the St. Louis CYC club team since she was 12, helping the squad finish 10th at the 2009 Junior Volleyball Association Nationals while tying for fifth in 2007 and 2008.

“Frankie will come in with a lot of good middle blocking skills and experience under her belt,” spoke Somera. “She is a very fluid athlete and moves smoothly along the net as a blocker and around the court as a transition attacker. Her combination of size and speed will give our team a mobile middle blocker who can score on both offense and defense.”

Wheeler lettered four years in volleyball at Cape Henry Collegiate School, earning All-Tidewater Conference honors three years running, including first-team accolades in 2008 and 2009. The Dolphins won the Division II state title as well as the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools championship in consecutive years, with Wheeler claiming the 2008 Division II State Player of the Year award and all-state honors both seasons. A Virginian-Pilot first-team All-Tidewaters selection, the 5-7 libero/outside hitter made 226 digs and landed 85 aces as a junior before compiling 332 digs during her senior campaign. Wheeler also played with Dave Albaugh’s Coastal Virginia club, leading the squad to the top spot in the regional rankings the past two years. She played beach volleyball as well, taking second place in three beach events from 2007-09 while winning the USA Volleyball Jr. Beach Tour U16 championship.

“Paige’s indoor and outdoor experience will serve her well in our program,” Somera said. “She was used as an outside hitter in both high school and club, but we will focus on her ball control skills and use her as a defensive specialist or libero. Paige is very dynamic as a smaller attacker, and her athleticism and upbeat attitude should translate well to our gym.”

Both Howley and Vain will rank as the third volleyball student-athlete from their home states of Texas and Missouri, respectively, to play for South Carolina, but they will be the first from those states since 1996 and 1997, respectively. Wheeler will be the first Gamecock volleyball player from Virginia. As for Schmidt, she will be the third South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year to play for the Garnet and Black and the second consecutive, following Mandy Quarterman in 1996 and Christina Glover in 2009.