A Leader Both In Athletics & Academics: Baruch Volleyball’s Steven Coniglio
The men’s volleyball team at Baruch College has won the CUNYAC championship in each of the last five years. This year they are ranked fifth in the nation (Division III) and appear to be headed to another very successful run toward season’s end. One reason for this success, specifically over the last three years, is middle blocker and tri-captain Steven Coniglio.
Coniglio, a 6’ 5” senior from Old Bethpage, NY, has been making his presence known on the team since his freshman season in 2011 when, during a game against NYU he had 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage. He recalled the game during a recent interview at the school’s athletic center, saying, “It was just one of those things where the very first play of the game set the tone. From there I was just in a rhythm and I never got out of it.”
He seems to have been in a rhythm throughout his college career. In 2012 his .439 hitting percentage was third in the nation. Coniglio was also an all-star that year and the team MVP. The following year he was named the 2013 CUNYAC Regular Season MVP. Before the current season began he received pre-season All-American honors from the “Off the Block,” volleyball blog.
Along the way, of course, were the CUNYAC titles. Coniglio considers the title the team won in his sophomore year the most rewarding. In the finals that season they were down two sets to Hunter College, who had had a terrific year. Baruch was considered the weaker team and was not expected to win the match. However, win it they did. “We were just able to come back in epic fashion and that was unbelievable,” Coniglio remembered. “After that win I was just lying down on the floor like ‘I can’t believe this just happened’.”
Perhaps it would not have happened had the volleyball coach at Plainview-Bethpage High School not seen Coniglio playing the game just for fun. Up until then he had only played at barbecues and during vacations. He was quickly recruited to play for Plainview-Bethpage and, just a few years later, colleges were taking notice. Even a few Division 1 schools took a look at him.
He settled on Baruch, a school known for its business program. Coniglio originally planned on studying business, then switched to actuarial science, which involves his best subject: math. Because of the math, he said, “it was just one of those things that really made sense for me.” Based on his grades (including a current 3.89 GPA), it was a good choice. He has won an NCAA Elite 89 Academic Award two times and is a member of two honor societies. This year, as a senior, he will be in the running for several more awards, including the CUNYAC Male Scholar Athlete of The Year.
The academic awards and honors rival the ones he has received playing volleyball. One of the biggest athletic honors he received was a spot on the Division III national team, which traveled to and played in Brazil in 2013. Coniglio remembers it as one of the best experiences he has ever had. He particularly enjoyed playing with men who were opponents during the Baruch season. “Playing against Brazilian teams was one thing, but playing with the guys you see on the other side of the court all the time was just totally another,” he said. “Getting to know them was really, really nice and, I’d never had more fun, or a better time on a vacation or a week, ever before.”
Another experience Coniglio remembers fondly is the team’s win against Division I Sacred Heart in 2013. Referencing his recruitment experience, he said, “It’s definitely validating for yourself when you go and beat a Division 1 team. I mean, some Division 1 schools looked at me and they were like, you know, we’re not really looking for you. It was definitely just nice going there and…beating them and showing that you’re right.”
That belief in himself is necessary if Coniglio wants to follow the motto of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichik, the person he most admires. The motto is simply “Do your job.” Coniglio certainly does his, but he also finds time for activities away from the court and the classroom. He recently completed a draft of a historical novel set during World War II. He also enjoys reading about medieval times, and is a big video gamer. “I’m just a nerd at heart,” he joked.
There isn’t much time for these things, however, now that the 2014 season has begun. Coniglio believes every game will be competitive. “I definitely believe this year more than any year, anybody can beat anybody,” he said. That being said, he called this year’s team “tremendous,” and said “I definitely believe that we’re aiming for nothing less than a national championship right now.” His teammates include his younger brother Brian whom he calls, “a far more studious kid” than he is, who “works so much harder for his grades.” The team has a new coaching staff whom Coniglio has a lot of respect for. He believes they bring a lot to the table including having played on professional teams.
Coniglio would love to emulate his coaches and add a professional team to his playing resume. However, right now he is simply thinking of the 2014 Baruch College men’s volleyball team. He and his teammates want that national championship. Though it will be hard to do, Coniglio said, “We think that we have a great shot.”
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