That’s the distance between Alyssa Cafarelli’s home, and where she annoys opposing spikers.
The west coast libero resides in her hometown of Peoria, Arizona when school semesters end, but stacks up digs at Framingham State University during volleyball season.
She first derived interest in crossing the country after the Framingham volleyball coach Richard Casali reached out to her. Cafarelli had a profile on a recruiting site, and after viewing it, the Framingham coach emailed her.
“I watched her video and could see that she was a fearless defender,” Casali said.
At first, she didn’t think much of it because coaches often emailed her with generic messages. But Casali followed up and invited her to visit the school.
“I thought to myself, ‘wow, this is real,'” Cafarelli said. “A few weeks later, I was in Framingham visiting the school and meeting coach for the first time.”
Cafarelli and her parents met with Casali at a Dunkin’ Donuts by the school and spoke for about three hours.
“We knew right then that this was the right coach and the right place for her,” Cafarelli’s mother Kim Cafarelli said. “And the cool twist to this story is that Alyssa’s dad was born in Boston and lived in Framingham before moving west to Arizona. So she was already raised on Boston sports and would fit right in.”
After visiting the school, Cafarelli committed and was a starter from day one. In fact, she was the only freshman starter on her team in the first game.
Now, she has an All-MASCAC Conference Second-Team award from her freshman year, as well as a First-Team plaque from this past season. She is also on pace to shatter the school’s all-time digs record.
But before all of this, her volleyball career began in the most unexpected of places.
A gymnastics mat.
Cafarelli was a competitive gymnast for eight years before quitting in the sixth grade.
She then jumped right into Club Volleyball and never looked back.
“I never once touched a volleyball before those tryouts,” Cafarelli said. “But I believed that my athleticism from gymnastics would help me in any sport I decided to play.”
Growing up, Cafarelli dedicated her time to gymnastics, training for around 25 hours a week. This made her unable to participate in any other youth sports.
Her fifth grade teacher was the volleyball coach for her Elementary school, and that is what inspired her to try the sport out.
“She was intending to take a break from athletics for a while, but her teacher at the time convinced her to give volleyball a try,” Kim Cafarelli said. “Obviously it didn’t take too much convincing, because literally a week after giving up gymnastics she made the switch to volleyball. The rest is history.”
“When I first started, I remember I couldn’t get a serve over the net for the longest time and became discouraged very quickly,” Cafarelli said. “I didn’t let that stop me, and I continued to work hard at the sport and it eventually led me to playing in college which has always been a dream.”
The libero who couldn’t reach the other side of the court, now has 86 service aces over two seasons, tied for the most by anyone on her team in that time frame, with the only other being her senior captain Deidre Fay.
She also has 928 digs over her first two seasons, which is 328 more than the next closest person to that stat. The school record for digs is 1,622. So, if she keeps up her pace, she will finish her career with 1,856.
“I believe that she is relentless in the way she plays. When a defender makes a near impossible play, it lifts a team and sets the tone. Alyssa is that type of player,” Casali said. “What nicer words can be said about an athlete? She is a leader by example, and the kind of defender that players wish to emulate.”
All that she has accomplished has been done even with the troubles of living over two thousand miles from home.
“Going home on breaks is easily one of the best feelings. Getting those tight hugs from my family always bring tears to my face,” Cafarelli said. “I am excited I took the opportunity to come on the East Coast for College Volleyball as it has been an amazing experience. Although, I must say, I do need warm weather in my life…. the cold isn’t for me.”
The sophomore has plans to become a teacher in early childhood classrooms in Massachusetts after college, before eventually returning to her home state of Arizona.
But before that, she still has her task of becoming the all-time digs leader in Framingham State University history.
“I am very proud of her as a player and as a person if she breaks records or not. I believe that the better she is, the better we all can be, and breaking the record would be a great personal accomplishment,” Casali said. “I believe that Alyssa puts team accomplishments above all else, but has a strong desire to be the best and beat the best. I have a lot of respect for that. I’ll be rooting for her.”