Saugus girls’ volleyball coach Zach Ambrose knew he had a special player coming in three years ago but had no idea the caliber of libero Gabriella Cascione.
Cascione, a junior, has quickly soared through the Saugus record books and became the school’s all-time leader in digs in Tuesday’s match with Hart.
“I knew of her when she was coming in as an eighth grader,” Ambrose said in a phone interview. “She was already playing one year up with Legacy (volleyball club) and she just continued that. She was playing with that kind of talent as a sophomore. I knew we had something special coming in but didn’t realize it’d help us win a CIF championship in her sophomore year.”
Cascione was an impact player from the moment she took the floor as a freshman and helped the Centurions finish 22-7-2, the program’s best finish in 10 years at the time. The libero tallied 432 digs in her first varsity season.
As a sophomore, Cascione again led the way in the back row and was a vital part of the 2022 CIF champion team that finished 35-3 and a perfect 12-0 in the Foothill League. The libero was awarded all-league and all-CIF honors.
Saugus graduated a ton of talent from the CIF championship squad but Cascione has been the driving force, keeping the 26-5 Centurions surging.
“After losing that much from last year, we are still competing with West Ranch and going toe to toe with Hart, even with that massive change,” Ambrose said. “Her game is pushing us and keeping us at the highest level.”
According to Ambrose, his young star has an undeniable work ethic and has hardly been satisfied with her astounding numbers.
“I think her understanding of what the other player is trying to do makes her able to cut off the ball instead of chasing it,” Ambrose said. “She was mad she only had 36 digs in five sets against West Ranch and 23 against Hart. She felt that she could have played a lot better.
“I think that drive to always be better keeps pushing her and keeps improving her game.”
Cascione has now safely passed 1,290 attacks in her nearly three full seasons of varsity volleyball. The junior passed 2012 Saugus alum, Jaclyn Clark, who was another four-year phenom for the Centurions.
Ambrose believes Cascione’s ability to read the attack has been the best he’s seen in some time.
“It’s the reading part of the game which is the most important, especially for a libero,” Ambrose said. “It’s not always the physical attributes that make you a great libero but the understanding of what the other player is going to do. She does that better than anyone I’ve seen in a long time.”
Cascione will only care about the team winning, but has at least one more record within reach. The junior is closing in on the single-season dig record of 501 digs, set in 2018 by Kayla Tait. The libero will also keep her focus in the classroom, where she has equally shined with a cumulative GPA just under 4.0.
The libero has already surpassed her totals from each of her first two varsity seasons and will look to keep on adding up the digs. Cascione sits at 443 digs and will have two more matches plus at least one playoff game to reach the 501-mark.