July 19, 2021 – By NJP
Gloucester Tech (GCIT) has a high school volleyball team that has had continued success in the Tri-County conference. We expect the Cheetah’s to have another strong season this Fall powered by three seniors, the twin sister pair of Lexi and Sophia Caltabiano and setter Kyla Sayson. Lexi Caltabiano has distinguished herself as one of the top outside hitters in the state as a junior.
Alexis is such an impressive volleyball talent. She has so many of the key elements that are judged come college recruitment time and she is entering her senior year this Fall. We will detail her physical attributes in a moment but one of her standout strengths is the energy she brings to the team every time she hits the court. This will serve her well as she assumes a larger leadership role as a senior.
Her technical skills are just outstanding. She is a force on the attack and gets a ton of power on her kill attempts. She has solid touch at the net and can tip as well as spike. She has agility and speed, two attributes that lend to tremendous defensive skills. Lexi is a strong passer and can be an acrobatic digger using her athletic and slender frame to get to unreachable attacks.
An area that Alexis continues to thrive is the service line. She has been consistently putting up over an ace per set and we expect this stat to get even better as a senior.
How amazing is it to have a built-in pepper partner with a twin sister? Both Sophia and Alexis play club volleyball at EVA for their 17-1 team. The sisters have quite different styles with Alexis handling all-around outside duties and Sophia being more of a specialist at middle. Both have been truly effective weapons for the Cheetah’s. Sophia broke onto the scene as a junior this Spring, anchoring the middle with 62 kills during the short season. Lexi broke out as a sophomore tallying over 150 kills as a second year and jammed over 100 kills during the short season.
We expect GCIT to get off to a quick start and put the heat on Williamstown in the battle for best in the Tri-County.
Here is our interview with Ms. Caltabiano…
How are you, Lexi? Thanks for joining the NJP player interview club. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Alexis Caltabiano, and I attend Gloucester County Institute of Technology with the graduating class of 2022. I live in Swedesboro with my mom, dad, younger brother, and twin sister.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have been playing volleyball for about 5 years. I was in seventh grade when I touched a volleyball for the first time at a clinic. I immediately fell in love with the sport.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What is your favorite position to play?
I am a 5’11” outside hitter and play for Eastern Volleyball Academy. My favorite position to play is outside because not only do I love hitting but I enjoy passing just as much. I enjoy playing all 6 rotations in a game.
Tell us about your GCIT teammates. Who do you expect to be this year’s standout players in the Fall?
I cannot express the amount of excitement I have to play with my teammates this season! I think this will be one of GCIT’s best seasons yet for girls’ volleyball. Some players that I expect to stand out in the fall are my sister, Sophia, our other outside hitter, Gabriella Franco who is coming in as a sophomore, and my setter, Kyla Sayson. I know these girls are going to shine and make our team the best it can be. All our girls are so fun to play with, and I cannot wait to see what this fall brings.
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? What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
I do plan on playing in college for sure. I am keeping my options open and have kept in touch with multiple coaches throughout the summer. I am not exactly sure what I want to study in college, but I do take up an interest in human health science.
You had the best game of your career against Washington Township this season with all-time bests in kills (22), blocks (3), and digs (11). What stands out to you about that night?
Wow, a night I will never forget. I really could not have been prouder of my team for that night. Both of our teams put up such a fight, and it was my favorite game last season by far. I’ll never forget how loud our gym was that night even with the few spectators allowed. Our team was the most fired up we have ever been, and I just remember looking across the court playing against some of my close friends which made the game the most exciting it’s ever been for me.
You had an outstanding sophomore season with 150 kills, 68 digs and 12 blocks. Your shortened Spring season was even better on a per set basis. What are your goals for your senior season?
My goal is always to be better and improve every day. I am happy with my statistics that I put up for the shortened Spring season; however, I am never satisfied and always look for ways to improve and be the best I can be. My goal this season is to total 300 kills and 100 digs. I’ve been training consistently this summer and am so excited to put the work in to reach my goal.
GCIT had a solid Spring campaign notching a 9-5 overall record and return most of your starters including your twin sister Sophia, setter Kyla Sayson and freshman standout Gabriella Franco. What are your expectation for the Cheetah’s in the Tri-County this fall?
I have very high expectations this fall for our team. Although we lost a couple of our seniors, I think our starting team this year is going to be a hard team to beat. We have such a solid group this year, and of course I want to take number 1 in our conference. Gabby has so much potential and seeing her come in last fall was a great thing for our team. She has improved so much, and I can’t wait to be with her on the court again. I see such a bright future for her. The one girl on my team that I can’t thank enough is Kyla. She has been my rock since day 1 of high school and has this type of hustle and dedication like no one I’ve ever seen before. Kyla plays a big role in my volleyball career because she is always pushing me to do better. She is also a great friend and person to be around. I know she will shine this year like usual.
Tell us about the relationship with your twin sister and teammate Sophia?
Sophia and I do almost everything together. We started volleyball together and have played side by side and have even ended up on the opposite sides of the net. I can’t express how much she has made me the player and person I am today. On and off the volleyball court, our competitiveness is unmatched. I compete with everyone and everything, but it’s different with my sister. Whether it’s chores or sports, I am always looking for a fun competition.
Tell us about the coaches or mentors that have positively influenced your volleyball career…
My very first coach in seventh grade, Bob Maguire, was the reason why I took up volleyball and stuck with it in the first place. I will never forget he was the first person to see potential in me during a summer clinic at Clearview High School before I even saw it in myself. He helped me learn the fundamentals and supported me telling me that I really should consider playing for high school. So, I did. Of course, my high school coach, Chris Retzbach, has been on the sidelines mentoring me since I first stepped foot in high school. Not only has Coach Retzbach helped me grow as a volleyball player, but he has shaped me into a better person. Whenever I get down on myself in a game or at practice, he is the first one to come pick me up and tell me shake it off and start again. I cannot thank him enough. The other people that I really look up to is Mark Avery and Kevin Schroeder. They both helped me improve significantly during my 2020 club season. This season was where I saw the most improvement in myself. I could not have done it without these two. They are two of the most energetic, inspiring, and driven people I know. I just wanted to give a big thank you to these guys because without them, I would not be where I am right now.
Tell us about your club volleyball experience.
I actually picked up club volleyball later than most. My first year of club volleyball was my sophomore year of high school. I did enjoy both years of club volleyball and met some great people my first year. I was new to club volleyball and realized that it was just a different level of playing, and I absolutely loved it. My second year of club was a year I would never forget. I played for Eastern Volleyball Academy and met amazing people. One of the people that I have stayed close with and had great chemistry with on and off the court was Addison Sondberg. She is the libero for Washington Township and one of my best friends. Addie and I played great together during the club season which made it even more fun to see her wearing the opponent’s jersey in high school. Rileigh Leighton was my club setter, and we had undeniable chemistry that made us work so well together. She plays for Williamstown high school, and I also can’t wait to see her on the other side of the net this high school season.
Who is your support group?
I cannot name one game where I’ve looked over and didn’t see my mom and dad cheering me on. They were there for the far away games, the tournaments, and of course the home games. Even when I have bad days, my parents are there to always lift me up. I also want to thank my grandparents. They always cheer me on, and I love making them proud. I have a wide support group ranging from my friends to my family, and I would not be where I am without them. I cannot thank my family enough for the endless support they have given me to get me where I am today.