June 26, 2020 – By NJP
June 26, 2020 – By NJP
Gianna Grigaliunas is clearly one of the best defensive players in the state of New Jersey. When she locks in at libero, it’s just tough for opponents to get anything down on IHA. But she is also an outside hitter for the Blue Eagles and drove home 117 kills for the Tournament of Champions winner and the best girls team in New Jersey.
The winning tradition continues at IHA who notched their 13th consecutive state title. Gianna’s versatility will serve her and the Blue Eagles well for 2020. IHA loses a ton of senior players including all-world middle Anna Morris, outside hitter Elizabeth Patterson, setter Maeve Duffin, and DS Emily Soranno. But as always, the team is deep with talent. Gianna will have to share the spotlight with middle Brookelyn Talmedge and setter Olivia Coughlin and we are sure a cast of new characters that will fulfill the typically legendary IHA roster. But we expect to see Gianna’s name pop up early and often as one of the top players in the state as a senior.
Gianna has already committed to play D1 college volleyball at Bryant. She possesses the confidence and determination that is the hallmark of a strong leader. And we expect her to just that for IHA in the upcoming season as they look to continue the streak to 14 straight.
Here is our interview with Ms. Grigaliunas…
Hi Gianna…tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Gianna Grigaliunas and I attend Immaculate Heart Academy in New Jersey. I have lived in River Edge (New Jersey) my entire life and will graduate from IHA in 2021. I live with my father, mother, younger sister, and my dog Jackson. My father played baseball at the University of Pittsburgh, and my mother ran track during high school. When my father graduated from college, he played recreational beach volleyball in the summer. My sister (2 years younger) attends Immaculate Heart and plays high school /club volleyball as well.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I started playing volleyball when I was in 5th grade. Up until then, I was taking gymnastics classes. When I tried out to play club volleyball for the first time (we did not have an elementary school team), I made the older team! I was surprised because I had never played the sport before, and I was able to play with the older girls. I decided to give up gymnastics and focus completely on volleyball because I loved the sport the second I began playing.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am 5’7” and I have a 32” vertical. I play outside hitter and defensive specialist at Immaculate Heart and DIGS Volleyball Club. At Bryant University, I will be playing DS/Libero. I am very excited to play this position in college.
How are you and your family dealing with current world situation with COVID-19? Are you expecting a normal Fall high school season schedule?
My family and I have been trying to stay as active and positive as possible during these crazy times. I am lucky to be able to spend time working out and doing some simple drills at home with my sister. Both of us are trying to get as strong as possible this upcoming season. We have been using the time to our advantage. As far as the IHA volleyball season, nothing has been cancelled yet, we are praying for a fall season!
13 state championships in a row is truly remarkable? What will it take to secure #14 in your senior year?
I think to secure our 14th state championship title, our returning team will have to grind especially hard. We are losing 7 seniors, and more than half of our starting line-up will be completely different. However, I am confident that with hard work and dedication, we will be just as successful as we were last year. I am super excited for this season. I truly believe that we have yet another bright future ahead of us. We will come back stronger this year without a doubt.
Tell us about your IHA teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
At IHA, we are like one huge family on and off the court. Each of my teammates are like my sisters. I think that is definitely one of the major factors that contribute to why we have been so successful over the past few years. We push each other each day in practice to get better. Everyone is equally important on the court in order for us to succeed.
Who is your support group?
My support group consists of my entire family, coaches and teammates. I can’t thank my club and high school coaches enough for pushing me extra hard to become the player I am today. I would not have reached my dream of becoming a Division 1 Volleyball player without all of them.
Tell us about your school?
Immaculate Heart Academy is an all girls catholic regional private high school. It is a rigorous college preparatory school with challenging classes.
What do you think IHA does differently than other programs in NJ that contributes to their success story?
Coaches often compare the way that we run our practices at IHA to college ones. We are very serious about practices and games, we study film and attend other opponents’ matches before we play them. We all walk into our gym with the mindset that we need to keep getting better each day and working harder every practice. We sacrifice everything for our team and getting better.
Which player last season was the toughest competitor that you faced and why?
There were a lot of great players last year, but we did not struggle with one in particular.
Which team do you feel will be the biggest threat to your state title win streak in 2020?
We approach every game as if that team is a threat.
Tell us about your high school coach? Club Coach?
Coach Maria Nolan is New Jerseys’ first volleyball coach to reach over 1,000 career wins. She is viewed in New Jersey as a legend, I am so lucky to play under her direction. She is amazing at putting together the strongest lineup possible each season and offers endless knowledge of the game.
Coach Annie DeLoid, Heather Stout, and Bill Lee were my club coaches last year. Each of them have helped me tremendously in my journey to play at the collegiate level. I couldn’t thank them enough for all of the time they devoted to helping me and preparing me for the next level.
Have you won any awards such as All County or All State or others?
Top 15 player in the 2019 State Tournament
All conference 1st team
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan on playing in College? (If so, which ones are you looking at?)
Yes! I am committed to play Division 1 volleyball at Bryant University. I could not be more excited to be part of such an AMAZING program.
Which schools are your biggest rivals?
I would have to say that the Academy of the Holy Angels (AHA) is our biggest rival. They are our sister school, and since volleyball became a sport, they were one of our toughest competitors.
What do you do during the offseason to stay in shape and prepare for next year? (Club team? Workouts? Watch VB vids? Go to College games?) Do you play other sports? (if so, which ones?)
I play club with DIGS Volleyball (in NJ).
Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why?
My favorite college player (now pro) is Kathryn Plummer. Not only is she one of the most legendary volleyball players, she is awesome at giving advice and tips on getting better at our sport. I was able to have a zoom call with her a few weeks ago and asked her a few questions about her experience playing at the Division 1 collegiate level.
What do you like to do other than volleyball?
In the summer, I love to surf down at my beach house in Long Beach Island in NJ. I also like to snowboard in the winter.
What is your favorite inspirational video that you like to watch before games?
I listen to upbeat music before games, to get me excited. In the first few games on the season I usually choose 2 or 3 songs to listen to before a game, and stick with them for the rest of the year- for good luck of course!
Juliette Garcia, Gianna and Erin Meaney