Sports Person of the Week
Buonfiglio Secures Starting Role as a Senior
Senior Gia Buonfiglio earned a spot in the starting lineup as an opposite hitter for the East Haven girls’ volleyball squad this year. (Photo courtesy of Kris SanGiovanni )
Gia Buonfiglio had never played volleyball before attending East Haven High School. During her four years with the Yellowjackets, Gia battled her way through injuries to become a varsity starter at the opposite hitter position as a senior.
Prior to her freshman year, Gia had participated in cheerleading and softball. Although she stopped cheering after 8th grade, many of the friends that Gia had made through softball, including her best friend Kayla Goodrich, were on the high school volleyball team. In an effort to stay active and continue playing team sports, Gia decided to join them on the Easties.
“All my friends were playing it, and I was looking for something to do. My best friend played since 6th grade, and so I figured I’d try out,” says Gia. “I had never played before, so it was weird being around girls who have been playing since middle school. I just tried my best. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I’ve definitely improved over the years.”
After her freshman season on the volleyball team, Gia decided that she was going to stop playing softball. Part of that decision came from the fact that Gia really enjoyed her first year of volleyball and wanted to focus more on the sport. The other part of Gia’s decision was because she needed hip surgery prior to the softball season.
Gia underwent surgery on her left hip as a freshman. In the summer before her sophomore year, she had surgery on her right hip. Despite these setbacks, Gia was determined to get back on the court with her teammates. After going through the rehabilitation process, she was able to return to the court for tryouts as a sophomore.
“I was planning on doing a summer league both years, but I wasn’t able to do it. I did my physical therapy with Marc Aceto, the trainer at East Haven, which really helped. He helped me so much. It was a quick recovery,” Gia says. “It was a struggle, being in pain and trying to do my best and make the team. But Marc Aceto really, really helped.”
Gia spent her first two seasons playing for the JV team at East Haven. By the time she was a junior, she made the varsity squad. While she wasn’t starting, Gia’s junior season taught her a great deal about what it takes to succeed at the varsity level.
“It was really scary. Watching all the girls play when I was younger, I never thought that I would be at that level,” says Gia. “I didn’t see that much playing time. It was hard. But I just worked hard. I loved the sport, and I wanted to be at that varsity level. So, I tried my best, and I worked for it.”
Gia’s hard work really started to pay dividends in her senior season. Gia earned a starting role as an opposite hitter for the Yellowjackets, recording 27 kills while playing on the right side. Gia put a lot of time and effort into the team and was pleased to see the results. Gia loved competing alongside her friends as they worked together to try and win.
Head Coach Craig Brown had a front-row seat as Gia worked her way up the Yellowjackets’ ranks during the past few years. Coach Brown says that Gia always brought a strong effort and that her work ethic is “something you want from all your players.”
“Gia’s biggest contribution is her work ethic. She has showed up every day for four years. She has had to overcome injuries and compete for a spot,” says Brown. “As a freshman, she was left off the varsity roster for the playoffs. She didn’t let it hold her back. She knew she had to grow and develop. She continued working hard to not just make the team, but start making waves towards the varsity roster.”
While there were for challenges for Gia on her way to a starting varsity spot, she still came back to volleyball every year. Gia always liked the fast-paced nature of the sport and found that sharing a bond with her teammates made the experience of playing that much better.
“Most of us played softball together from a very young age. We were all very familiar with how to play a sport with each other,” Gia says. “It was nice going into volleyball with them. We’ve all been very close since we were little. Having people that you know and that you’re close with in a sport makes it even more fun. You have a bond outside the sport. Making a bond inside it is nice, as well.”
After graduation, Gia will attend the University of New Haven, where she will major in forensics. Gia is still undecided about volleyball, but may consider playing on the club team at the school.
Gia’s journey through volleyball started just four years ago. Through her time at the high school, Gia found her athletic passion in a sport that gave her everything she was looking for.
“It’s nice having something fun to do, especially with people you’re close with and people you have known. It’s a different experience,” Gia says. “I loved softball and cheerleading at a time, but my love for volleyball is just so different. Instantly, I loved it, even struggling to make varsity and play. But when you have drive for something, it’s really easy to do.”