Good Sports, Caloiaro Style

Practically any time a USF sports team is competing, there’s a good chance that fans might notice one common name in the lineup. That’s because three members from the same family—each at USF on athletic scholarships—are competing for the Dons.

Written by Edward Carpenter
Good Sports, Caloiaro Style

Three gifted athletes, three sports, three Division I scholarships, one remarkable family. If you haven’t seen the University of San Francisco’s Caloiaros in action you still have a chance. The eldest Caloiaro, junior communications major Angelo Caloiaro, is a starting forward on the Dons basketball squad. Business major Vinny Caloiaro, a sophomore, plays center midfield for men’s soccer. And freshman Joan Caloiaro, who is interested in both business and communications, is a setter for women’s volleyball.

“It is an extremely rare thing for three members of the same family to compete at the same university at the same time in three different sports,” said Ryan McCrary, USF assistant athletic director for media relations and a 19-year veteran of Division I athletics. “The Caloiaros are an exceptionally gifted group of student-athletes.”

Each of the siblings knows how to rise to the occasion. Each is capable of turning a desperate situation against an opponent to the Dons’ advantage.

As the talented younger sister, Joan cheerfully admits to the influence of her older brothers. “I really look up to my brothers,” Joan said. “I am one of their biggest fans.” The three have grown closer at USF, seeing each other almost daily, going out to dinner together on weekends, and attending the others’ games.

Growing up in a large, close-knit family, not to mention one full of talented athletes, a competitive streak comes naturally to all three. So much so, that parents Dominik and Maureen were frequently forced to break up contests of backyard wiffle ball and driveway basketball to keep the family peace.

“We were rarely able to finish a game,” said Angelo, with a laugh. “As we’ve grown older we’ve mellowed a little, but we still know how to talk trash to each other.”

“When we lose, it’s not a pretty sight,” admitted Joan, recalling games of ball tag in the house that ended in a raucous crescendo. Were vases shattered? Picture frames cracked? Joan was “mum,” on the matter.

In spite of their rivalry, the siblings are the first to support each other whether it’s rebounding the basketball while Angelo practices his jump shot, as Joan does, or strapping on goalie gloves to block and shag Vinny’s shots on goal, as Angelo has been known to do.

It’s all part of the patented Caloiaro dynamic. “We’re pretty family oriented,” Angelo explained. Dad, Dominik, is one of seven siblings and mom, Maureen, is one of eight. Most of their aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews live in Saratoga, their hometown, or around the Bay Area. Easter and birthday gatherings can swell to 50 people with the guest list reading like a who’s who of athletic elites—including cousin Kerri Walsh, Olympian turned professional beach volleyball player, cousin Marcia Wallis, former Boston Breakers (WUSA) soccer forward, cousin Brian Barnard, a former U.S.A. national rugby team right wing, and, mom, Maureen, who is counted among the all-time top women’s basketball players at Pepperdine University.

Having such high achievers in the family raises the bar, but the Caloiaros seem to take it in stride. “It’s something to look up to and strive toward,” Angelo said. “It’s also fun to brag about.”

On the basketball court, Angelo established himself has a top long-range shooter his sophomore year, turning in the most accurate single-season beyond the arc in USF men’s basketball history, hitting slightly more than 49 percent of his attempts in 2009-10. As a junior, Angelo, at 6 feet 8 inches and 225 pounds, grew into a physical presence in front of the basket, leading the Dons in rebounds (248) as men’s basketball achieved its first 10-win West Coast Conference (WCC) campaign (11-3) since 1982, making it to the quarterfinals of the Tournament.

“I would say we have made huge strides since my freshman year and I’m happy with where the program is headed. But at the same time, I’m not satisfied with the season because we didn’t win a championship,” Angelo said.

Angelo came to USF from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, having been recruited by Coach Rex Walters while Walters was in his previous post as head coach at Florida Atlantic University. Angelo, who balked at accepting the Florida offer because of the school’s distance from home, was still weighing a decision when Walters took the head coaching job at USF. Angelo signed immediately.

“I like USF because it is close to Saratoga, but the city is a completely different environment from where I grew up,” said Angelo, who enjoys hanging out at Baker Beach with friends in his spare time and catching Giants games.

With so many players returning next year, Angelo has lofty expectations for the team’s performance. After graduating he’d like to play professionally in Europe and then coach. “I want to stay connected to basket- ball. I can’t see my life without it, to be honest,” he said. Younger brother Vinny saw action in all 19 men’s soccer matches last season, including 11 starts. He scored once and assisted twice during his sophomore campaign.

He was drawn to USF soccer because of Head Coach Erik Visser’s ball-possession approach and because of the positive reviews he heard from Angelo. “I also wanted a good education and the academics at USF are great,” said Vinny, who also attended Archbishop Mitty High School.

With solid freshman and sophomore campaigns behind him, Vinny stands on the brink of finding what it takes to push his game to the next level and become one of the team leaders his junior and senior years, Visser said.

The ability to meet so many students with wide-ranging backgrounds and life experiences at USF has impressed Vinny. “The friends that I have made, from those in the dorms to those in class or on the soccer field, have helped me to learn more about people because USF is so diverse compared to my high school,” he said.

A setter on the volleyball team, Joan spent the preseason preparing for and trying out for the U.S. Women’s National Team, U.S. Women’s National A2 Program, and U.S. Women’s Junior National Team in February. As one of 208 players from 81 colleges, among them USF teammate Malina Terrell, Joan gained valuable insight into top NCAA programs and what it takes to compete against future Olympians.

Joan was a 2010 honorable mention for the All-West Coast Conference Team and made the 2010 All-West Coast Conference Freshman Team. She was named American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) high school All-American in 2009 and helped her alma mater, Archbishop Mitty High School, to back-to-back national titles in 2008 and 2009, going 39-0 in the latter.

As a setter, Joan calls the team’s plays while scheming to outmaneuver her opponents as she sets the ball for her teammates to spike. Ranked second on the team in kills, Joan also knows a thing or two about how to crush a set herself.

She’s watched cousin Kerri Walsh play in numerous Olympic and Association of Volleyball Professionals tournament games and appears to put what she has learned to good use for the Dons. Still, she doesn’t want her cousin to grow too full of herself. “To me, (Kerri) is just my cousin. I know she is a superstar and is the best volleyball player in the country, but I don’t treat her any differently because of it,” Joan said with a smile.

Like many freshman college students, Joan is enjoying living on her own for the first time. For fun, she likes to catch a movie or hang out with friends. San Francisco’s foodie culture and many eclectic restaurants have grown on her, but she refuses to let such flashy fare eclipse her favorite dishes—sandwiches and Cheerios.

Looking ahead to next year, all three of the Caloiaros have set their sights on winning “silverware”—indicating they won’t be satisfied with anything less.

“A year from now, I would like to be able to say that I have had a big impact on this program,” Angelo said. “In order to say that, we need to win a championship.”

Vinny not only wants a WCC title for men’s soccer and an NCAA Tournament berth, he’s set a personal goal of being named to the All-West Coast Conference squad.

Not to be outdone, Joan is also gunning for a WCC championship trophy and a chance at the NCAA Tournament title.

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