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Plainview Star Reflects On Sports Career

This past May, Old Bethpage’s Steve Coniglio graduated from Baruch College and concluded a stellar four-year academic and athletic career. The leader of the team finished his career by earning Second Team All-American honors and was named the CUNYAC Student-Athlete of the Year.

It was a fitting end to what was a phenomenal career for Coniglio, who did not begin playing volleyball until his freshman year at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School.

“I was always naturally smart and classes came extremely easy to me. But volleyball was a sport that I had to build from scratch,” said the 6’5” Coniglio. “I started with nothing and put blood, sweat and tears into the sport. My All-American, even though it was a second team, was something that I fought for every second I was on a volleyball court and I cherish the acknowledgement very much.”

It wasn’t until he went to go play for the Long Island Volleyball Boys Club (LIVBC) team that Coniglio realized what he could do on the volleyball court.

“Before my sophomore year started I joined the club LIVBC and made its national team,” recalled Coniglio. “I definitely wasn’t good at the time and, despite starting for varsity in high school, I rode the bench for the prestigious club for the whole year. It was only at the very end of the year, when we went to the Junior Olympics, did I really step up my game and take my first major step to the athlete I am today.”

That summer is when the light when on for Coniglio as the experience he gained and the improvements he made during the Junior Olympics provided the technique and confidence he needed.

“They [LIVBC] made me the middle hitter that I am today,” said Coniglio. “I came to them raw and they molded me into a dynamic player. The greatest thing they taught me was explosiveness.mThey also taught me to be a student of the game to the point where I understood defenses well enough to have my way with them.”

He carried that into his sophomore season where he would continue to grow, ultimately culminating in a fantastic junior season. The middle blocker earned All-County honors and led the Hawks to a dominant regular season which ended with a county championship.

“It was unbelievable moment winning the county championship,” said Coniglio, who recorded 18 kills and 10 blocks in the title game. “I remember hundreds of fans lining full bleachers watching the match. They even had to pull out an extra set of full bleachers just to seat people. The game was intense and the crowd was roaring.”

The 22-year old shook off an average performance through the first four sets of the match and rose to the occasion with an outstanding fifth set that led the Hawks to the win. His play would only improve the following year in his senior season before he headed off to Baruch College in New York City to pursue an education and continue his athletic career.

His impact was felt immediately in his freshman year as he recorded 258 kills while helping the Baruch Bearcats roll to a 36-14 regular season record, including going undefeated in conference and winning the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) championship. That season, he was part of the first Baruch team in any sport to play in a Division III Final Four.

While his freshman year was a success, Coniglio says his sophomore season was where he really began to blossom.

“I realized that I could compete with some of the very best in the country my sophomore year,” recalls Coniglio. “I really had a coming out season which made me believe that I could continue to grow into the great athlete I was dying to be.”

He became one of the best players in the country, making the CUNYAC all-First Team while finishing third in the country amongst Division III players with a .439 hitting percentage. Not only was he succeeding on the court, but his academics were excelling as well and he won the 2012 NCAA Elite 89 Academic Award.

The following year, after leading the Bearcats to another CUNYAC title and back to the NCAA Tournament, he took home the 2013 NCAA Elite 89 Academic Award yet again.

“My parents drilled into me when I was very young, ‘Work hard, play hard. Not the other way around’,” said Coniglio. “It took a lot of self-discipline and hard work, but I was not satisfied unless I got the highest grade that I felt I could get. Volleyball and schoolwork balanced each other though.”

With three years of success under his belt at Baruch, Coniglio began his senior campaign as one of the best Division III players in the country. He led the Bearcats to a 27-11 overall record and 14-0 in conference play, winning the CUNYAC championship for the fourth consecutive season.

Baruch was back in the NCAA Tournament, but would fall short to fifth-ranked Stevens. In his final collegiate game, Coniglio ripped eight kills to go out with a successful showing.

In his four years at Baruch, the Old Bethpage native led the Bearcats to one of its most successful runs. He helped them win four conference championships and was a stable force in the middle.

Coniglio received his degree from Baruch in Actuary Science, and is now seeking a job in that field. While his collegiate volleyball career might be over, he has no plans of leaving the game he loves.

“I play beach volleyball in the summer two to three times a week and indoor as much as I can,” said Coniglio. “I also plan on coaching a men’s or women’s club volleyball team and passing on the knowledge I have learned to the next generation of volleyball players.

Volleyball has been in my life for a long time and I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.”

News

Plainview resident Gail Wurtzel will be leading her team, Memories of Miriam, in the Walk to Defeat ALS at Eisenhower Park later this month.

 

Wurtzel’s Mother, Miriam Hanania, also a Plainview resident, succumbed to the disease two years ago after a long struggle. The disease forced her to go from an active, vibrant person to being wheelchair-bound and dependent on others for her care. 

 

ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

While everyone is subject to the trials and tribulations that life offers on a day-to-day basis, some people can use just a little bit of extra help. Luckily, there’s help with a proven track record out there for those who need it. 

 

Joe Russo of Old Bethpage heads up the Recovery International meetings held weekly at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library. These meetings extol the virtues of the self-help techniques developed by the late Dr. Abraham Low, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry as the University of Illinois Medical School.  


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