Cascioppo returns to familiar territory


POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

LOS ANGELES » Beethoven and Bowie on the iPod. Jazz records on the record player. Pasta for every meal if possible.

Corinne Cascioppo is unconventional and proud of it. Just as she is proud about overcoming learning disabilities in order to play volleyball at a Division I university.

The route she took to get to Hawaii was definitely circuitous, one that has brought the 6-foot-3 sophomore hitter back to very familiar territory this week for the NCAA tournament. Had things gone differently, Cascioppo would be in the Galen Center wearing a USC uniform.

“;It will be weird seeing Mick again,”; Cascioppo said of USC coach Mick Haley. “;I committed to them in high school but there was something tugging at my heart, something telling me I didn't want to go to USC. It wasn't my parents, it wasn't the school or the program. I think I wasn't ready for college and big-time Division I volleyball.”;





        At USC

First round (tomorrow): Hawaii (28-2) vs. New Mexico (20-9), 3 p.m.;


USC (21-9) vs. Oklahoma (18-11), 5 p.m.


Second round (Saturday): Tomorrow's winners, 5 p.m.




Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM tomorrow; KORL, 1080-AM Saturday




As was the case with her UH roommate and former club teammate Lex Forsythe, Cascioppo said there was a point at Temecula (Calif.) High where she wanted to walk away from volleyball. The two friends made late decisions to continue playing, with Forsythe heading to Houston Baptist and Cascioppo to Mesa State in Colorado before transferring to Hawaii this season.

Hawaii's interest in Cascioppo also was late, occurring after she had de-committed to USC and was playing club ball during the spring of her senior year. She was approached by Wahine associate coach Mike Sealy at a regional qualifier for Junior Olympics. “;I still have his business card,”; said Cascioppo, who wasn't academically qualified to play Division I volleyball at that point.

“;During the entire year at Metro, I'd open my wallet and look at his card. It reminded me of where I wanted to go. Even though I was working hard and starting for Metro, I was looking ahead to being at Hawaii.”;

Ironically, Cascioppo's first taste of the islands came when taking a recruiting trip to Hawaii Pacific.

“;After she said that maybe USC wasn't the place for her, we started looking at other options,”; Cascioppo's mom, Karin Angel said. “;She fell in love with HPU, but it got put on the back burner. We thought she was better than (D-II).

“;Her club coach (951 Elite Volleyball Club's Dennis Palpallatoc) was very instrumental in her being put on the path to get to Hawaii. She would look at the card (from Sealy) and say, 'This is what I want to do.' “;

Cascioppo, who often had problems focusing in the classroom, had no problems focusing on the goal to be a Wahine. While she hasn't played much (45 sets, one start), she's looking toward next year to contribute.

“;I'm not getting discouraged,”; she said. “;I know I need to work on things. I started at Metro State but this is a different level of play completely and I'm getting the coaching I need.

“;I'm used to playing on the right side but I've been playing on the left here. I'm excited because I'm experienced at both positions and can be in there for traditional and non-traditional rotations.”;

Cascioppo could see more playing time during the NCAA tourney.

“;She brings a different dimension to our block,”; Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. “;If we face someone who has a line hitter on the right, she might be thrust into that blocking role.

“;Physically, she's everything you look for. Her ball control needs some improvement and I think when she first came in, she wasn't ready to compete at this level. She's learning, improving, and knows she's playing for next year. But she's important to our team as we advance.”;

Cascioppo starred in other sports, especially age-group swimming, but she apparently was born to be a volleyball player. Her father, Steve, said he gave his daughter her first volleyball “;when she was about 12 hours old,”; he said.

“;It was a bright pink Karch Kiraly signature beach volleyball and it started a tradition where I bought colorful volleyballs and cigars when each of my daughters were born.

“;I bought the volleyball only because is was bright pink. It seemed to be telling us something. I'd say she ended up at Hawaii because she finally got to a place where she felt comfortable. Everything she's gone through has all been worth it, knowing Corinne made her own decision and is happy with it.”;

Corinne Cascioppo said she learned the words to USC's fight song “;Fight On”; when her fourth grade teacher, a USC graduate, taught it to the class.

“;I love music but I won't be singing that song in the Galen,”; she said. “;I'll be singing 'Let's go 'Bows' really loud.”;