For Erica Di Maulo, volleyball has always been an important part of her life. It’s a sport that she has known and been around since she was born.
“My parents both played volleyball when they were young,” Di Maulo said. “My mom played at the highest level of volleyball in Italy. It’s kind of a family tradition. They wanted me to try all the sports, but I realized quickly that volleyball was my favorite. They love the sport and encouraged me a lot to try it. Now I can’t stop playing it.”As a result of her passion and love for volleyball, the 19-year-old Di Maulo from Italy is quickly becoming one of the best setters in the Big East Conference for the St. John’s Red Storm.
Hailing from Milan, Di Maulo played for the Italian club team Progetto Volley Oraga and served as its captain. Under Di Maulo’s leadership, the club won the U-16 Italian Championship in 2013.Last year, Di Maulo moved to the United States to continue her volleyball career at St. John’s University in Queens. So far, Di Maulo is enjoying her time as a student-athlete in New York City.
“I love the city and like this country,” Di Maulo said. “It’s like being in a small world. My favorite place to go is Central Park, but I just like walking around different neighborhoods.” Di Maulo said she also enjoys visiting Times Square and Lower Manhattan.
But coming to the U.S. has been a big adjustment for Di Maulo, especially when it came to learning a new language. However, what has helped the sophomore Johnnie is the international flavor that the Red Storm have on their roster. Along with fellow Italian Martina Carosso, Di Maulo is joined by other international players from Canada, China, and Puerto Rico on the St. John’s roster.
Congrats to Erica Di Maulo for being named the best setter of the Baylor Classic! pic.twitter.com/27v3NhL7Re— St. John's VBall (@StJohnsVB) September 17, 2017
“It really helps a lot,” Di Maulo said. “Especially when I came here because my English wasn’t that great. But since I was not the only international player on the team, I wasn’t the only one learning the language.”
While Di Maulo enjoys the combination of going to school and playing volleyball at St. John’s, she admits that balancing school and volleyball is a challenge.
“I find it pretty hard right now since we’re missing a lot of classes,” Di Maulo said. “So I don’t have much free time right now. Our schedule is packed, so we have more free time in the spring.”
On the court, there’s been little to no adjustment for Di Maulo. As a freshman, Di Maulo appeared in 31 matches and made 30 starts for the Red Storm. She finished with over 1,100 assists, which ranks as the second-most by a freshman in school history and was third-highest in the Big East last season. As a result, Di Maulo earned Big East Co-Freshman of the Year honors and was named to the All-Big East First Team last season. She became the second freshman in school history to be named as the top freshman in the conference and the third freshman to be named to the conference’s first team.
“I was really proud and thankful to all the people who helped me,” Di Maulo said. “It meant a lot to me because that influence from coaches and teammates that pushes you is important. They help you improve your game and get better.”
For Di Maulo, the key to her breakout season was simply hard work.
“I worked hard from the beginning,” Di Maulo said. “Even if we weren’t playing great, I’ve never stopped working hard. When you work hard, it pays off so I think that was the key.”
In volleyball, the setter position is very similar to that of a point guard in basketball or a quarterback in football. The setter is in charge on offense for a volleyball team.
“As a setter, you should know how to manage all situations,” Di Maulo said. “In a small period of time, you need to know how to set and when to set. The setter has to manage the match and touch the ball on every set. You have to be smart and know where your teammates are on the floor. You need to understand your teammates and what they’re comfortable doing.”
As Di Maulo mentioned, having success as a setter and in volleyball goes beyond her. It comes down to the team, and Di Maulo said that the team’s goals supersede her own individual goals of continuing to get better and work hard.
“We want to do better this year as a team and make the Big East Tournament,” Di Maulo said. “If we make it, then we want to win. We have to stay focused every time and compete.” Ready to begin their conference portion of the schedule, the Johnnies are 8-6 this season with Di Maulo leading the team in assists once again and averaging over 10 assists per set.
Along with seeing all of what New York City has to offer, Di Maulo enjoys watching Netflix and listening to music when not setting up her teammates for scores on the volleyball court. And it’s not just any type of music that she likes listening to.
“I like listening to Reggaeton and Spanish music,” Di Maulo said. “I speak Spanish so I can actually understand what they are saying in the song and sing along.”
This story was originally published on Excelle Sports. Visit ExcelleSports.com for more coverage of women's sports at all levels.