Mara Capraruolo will play at the University of Akron.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- In some ways, Mara Capraruolo is like just about every other high school senior.
She's itching to graduate. She's ready to start a new stage of her life in a new place, and even though she isn't quite sure where she'll end up in four years, she's excited to get started.
The Boardman senior signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play volleyball at the University of Akron.
On the face of it, it might seem like just another tall, talented senior good enough to make it to a Division I school.
But things are never that simple.
Five years ago, Capraruolo's father, Vincent, died of cancer. She was in eighth grade.
He's still her hero.
"He had a great personality," she said. "He got along real well with everyone and he was able to see the best in everyone. He pushed me to my best in everything and he believed in me."
Her family rallied together. Her mother, Pamela, and her brother, Andy, leaned on each other, making each other stronger through the worst of times.
"They've been there for me and I'm thankful," she said. "They've helped me achieve all my goals."
Overcoming injury: During Capraruolo's freshman year, she started having shoulder problems while swimming. She had been swimming for most of her life, but she got enflamed muscles and a strained rotator cuff and had to quit. Volleyball was all that was left, and she excelled.
A three-year starter, Capraruolo has been an all-Steel Valley Conference and all-district selection for three years and earned honorable mention all-state this year. She might have had even more honors if not for those four losses her senior year -- all to the same team, Boardman's rival, Fitch.
"But I give them a lot of credit," she said, after listing those losses as the worst memories of her career. "They're a very good team."
Staying close: Capraruolo visited a few schools this winter, but she wanted to play Division I -- she loves the competition -- and Akron gave her some distance from where she grew up.
Just not too much distance. After all, her brother Andy plays on Akron's baseball team.
"I like what they have to offer," said Capraruolo, who will major in business. "I like the coach [Mike Sweitzer] and the city atmosphere, and all the girls seem to get along really well."
Sweitzer coaches Capraruolo's junior Olympic volleyball team -- she's been playing J.O. for five years -- so he's familiar.
"I've learned a lot from him," she said. "He seems to know a lot about volleyball."
Sweitzer might learn from her, too. She seems to know a lot about life.