Stafford Leader

Schiattarella: Complete Player, Leader By Example

High Praise From Volleyball Coach
By DAVID BIGGY | Nov 08, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy THE CLOSER: Gianna Schiattarella may surpass the Southern record for point kills, yet rather than personal achievement, her mind is on team success.

Stafford Township — Gianna Schiattarella has a hard time talking about herself and her accomplishments on the volleyball court. And, rightfully so. She’s a true team player and leader. She doesn’t believe the focus should be on her, but, rather, on everybody as a whole.

“The player I want to be on the court everyday is the one who’s always there for your team,” said the senior outside hitter. “I never want to be the player who’s getting upset at everybody and yelling at them to do better. Being that way just makes it so nobody wants to work with you, and makes them question whether they want to be there.”

So, naturally, when asked about becoming the Southern Regional girls volleyball program’s career leader for kills – the end result of adding a point to the scoreboard when she successfully hits a ball to the floor – she balked.

“I’ve heard this before from my coaches: I’m like the turtle sitting on the fence post,” she said. “If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know it didn’t get there by itself. Somebody had a hand in putting it there. That’s the way it is for me, as a hitter. There’s a pass and a set that comes before the kill.”

Such a humble approach to how she does things on the court – and accurate. But here’s the kicker: somebody has to finish the point. And that’s the hitter’s job.

Heading into Southern’s second-round match of the NJSIAA Group IV tournament, which was scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 7, Schiattarella had finished 696 points with kills, tying her with Janelle Murdock for the most in Rams’ history. It is reasonable to expect, by when this gets in print, that she is alone at the top, possibly with 700 or more kills in her career.

“That puts it in a different perspective, and it means a lot to me,” she conceded. “Every year, Coach (Eric) Maxwell puts the names of the record-holders out there. At first, it seems they’re unreachable. I remember as a freshman thinking they were not within my reach. And, obviously, you don’t think about it when you’re playing – because you shouldn’t. But eventually, you start to realize, as you see the results of what you’ve done in a season, how close you can get.

“It’s weird to hear that I’m approaching 700 kills and I’m going to be the career leader.”

However weird it may sound, it’s every bit true. Maxwell says there’s a reason she has become the best finisher in team history.

“I saw that potential in her early, when she was a freshman,” he said. “She doesn’t overpower anybody on the other side of the net. She outsmarts them. She knows when to hit the ball down the line at the right time, or cut the ball across the court at the right time. She’s a really smart hitter.

“She doesn’t put up 25 kills in a match, but consistently puts up 10 or 12. And the bigger the match, the better she plays.”

Schiattarella isn’t just a hitter, Maxwell says.

“She serves well, is good on serve-receive, and she passes well,” he said. “She brings a lot to the table, a little bit of everything. Yes, she’s our go-to hitter. But she’s extremely versatile on the court. That’s why she’s on the floor for six rotations, because she’s good in all facets of the game.”

Still, there’s more – her leadership ability.

“To have a player on the floor who maintains her composure the way Gianna does, a player who can stabilize the group during a match, is vital,” Maxwell said. “A leader like Gianna makes things a lot easier. And she’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever had. If she has a bad day on the court, you wouldn’t have known it because of everything else she does on the floor to stabilize the girls around her. She’s very much the glue of our team.”

Of course, playing in an elite program with Southern’s reputation sometimes can be difficult. However, Schiattarella never once thought of playing for Maxwell as anything like feeling pressure.

“He has a lot of fire, and it’s inspiring the way he coaches,” she said. “He wants to see us succeed. He makes us work hard because he knows how good we can be if we play well together. He always expects 100 percent, and he should. If you’re not putting in 100 percent, you shouldn’t be playing this sport.

“It’s been special playing in this program.”

Surprisingly, whenever the high school season ends, her senior season will be her last scholastic season.

“I’m planning to go to Stockton University, but I’m not going to play volleyball,” said Schiattarella, who first started playing in sixth grade. “Volleyball has taken up a lot of my life, with club volleyball and all that. I’ve put in a lot of time to play this sport the best I can.

“So, I’m going to go to college and do other things. I’ve had a great run in volleyball. As much as I enjoy the sport, it’s time for something else.”

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