Page 33 - CHSCA Fall-Winter Magazine 2020-2021
P. 33

IT WAS SO UNEXPECTED:
Goodwin Tech’s DeLarosa Becomes Just Second All-State Volleyball Player in Program
 by Ryan Chichester
The New Britain Herald sports staff reporter
When Goodwin Tech girls vol- leyball senior Nathalie DeLarosa heard from head coach Joe Ganja that she had become just the sec- ond Gladiator to earn All-State honors in nearly two decades she was certain she was the victim of a cruel prank.
“I didn’t believe him,” DeLarosa said. “I really thought he was jok- ing. I just didn’t really know what it meant to be that. I never thought it would happen to me.”
DeLarosa, who was named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association’s second team All-State squad in Class S, became the first Goodwin Tech volleyball player to be recognized at a state level since Iris Buckley made All- State way back in 2004.
In Granja’s 24 years at the school, only Buckley and DeLarosa are on that exclusive list.
“To be recognized by the coach- es across the state shows her work really paid off,” Granja said.
DeLarosa’s work reached new heights in 2019, when she debuted on the varsity roster following freshman and sophomore sea- sons with the JV squad. DeLarosa arrived at the varsity level with modest expectations, even for her- self, but her trajectory since her junior season was both prompt and profound. In her first varsity campaign, DeLarosa earned all- conference honors and helped lead the Gladiators to the CTC champi- onship over Prince Tech. DeLaro- sa’s fingerprints were all over that
memorable victory, logging four service aces in a dramatic fifth set to turn a 9-8 deficit into a 13-9 lead, and her kill later in the set proved to be the championship clincher.
One year later, DeLarosa and Goodwin Tech are conference champs again, and DeLarosa, who was once again named to the all- conference team, has an extra ad- dition to her trophy case in the form of an All-State nod.
“It feels so good,” DeLarosa said. “I thought I was just going to be a JV player forever.”
Instead, DeLarosa packed a career’s worth of success into two seasons with the Gladiators, par- ticularly with the help of Granja, who followed DeLarosa to the var- sity level after coaching DeLarosa for her two years at JV.
“My coaches helped me through a lot and the sport has helped me a lot with my life,” DeLarosa said. “Just focusing on it and becoming something I’m really passionate about, it really changed who I am. I never thought I would have im- proved this much from sophomore to senior year, but it’s definitely not
something I thought I could do my- self.”
Granja, who had a front-row seat to DeLarosa’s ascent, was at the helm for the program’s only back-to-back conference champi- on in history, and saw his senior at the forefront of the team’s success, finishing her senior season with 107 kills and 57 service aces.
“She really had an impressive couple of years here playing varsi- ty,” Granja said. “I was lucky enough to be her JV coach her freshman and sophomore year and took over varsity during her junior year, and she’s an extremely hard-working athlete. She works really hard at improving her game. She’s not the type of kid to miss practice. She has the will to get better and work at it, and it showed on the court.
“Nathalie led this team. She made sure kids were coming to practice and working hard, and she really led by example, which is one of the best things you could say about a player.”
There have been plenty of highlight moments to DeLarosa’s varsity career, all packed to just a span of two seasons. But the one that stands out is her most recent achievement, one she thought was just a nothing but a fantasy, even after hearing the news from her coach.
“This is definitely No. 1,” De- Larosa said. “It was so unexpected. I didn’t know they were still going to choose All-State since we didn’t have state tournaments because of covid. I dreamed of this, being recognized for how much I’ve im- proved, but I never really thought it would happen.”
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