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Smithtown East's Jackie Cuccurullo a star on court, shoots for the stars off court

Jackie Cuccurullo is used to setting her teammates up for success.

She's the starting setter on the undefeated Smithtown East girls volleyball team (14-0) that has clinched its ninth consecutive Suffolk III title, according to coach George Alamia.

The setter is traditionally the player who creates chances for her teammates. Cuccurullo, a senior, averages 26 assists per match and recorded a personal-best 43 assists in a five-set win against rival Smithtown West on Sept. 28.

Many of her assists have come as a result of kills by Kendra Harlow and Haley Anderson. Cuccurullo said playing with them has helped her game.

"Even if I get a bad touch on it, they're still able to put it down," Cuccurullo said.

Laughing, she added: "The good hitters make [the setter] look good."

After creating so many chances for Harlow, Anderson and others, Cuccurullo also created an opportunity for herself by verbally committing to Harvard University for lacrosse, a sport she has played on travel teams since fourth grade. She said she committed in February of her sophomore year.

Cuccurullo also plays soccer at Smithtown East, and she only picked up volleyball in seventh grade because she said it was "something new to try."

Lacrosse, after school activities and academics have limited her free time, leaving no time for her to play on a club volleyball team.

It's common for volleyball players to compete outside of school on club teams, but Cuccurullo has never done so. Still, she excels on the court.

"Setter is a highly skilled position," Alamia said. "What she's done at that position without playing club volleyball is amazing."

Alamia was her first volleyball coach when she began playing in seventh grade, and he has witnessed her growth from the beginning.

"She's a quick learner," Alamia said. "Her mentality in practice is to get better all the time. Greatness is improving everyone around you, and Jackie definitely does that."

Cuccurullo attributed her growth as a player to how hard her teammates push her in practice. She returns the favor, of course, and she said that's what has made them successful.

The Bulls have high hopes for the rest of the season, but they never set their sights too far ahead.

"We always take one game at a time," she said. "We always focus on what's coming next. We always prepare the best we can. We know we have a lot of weapons, and our defense is great."

Cuccurullo's days of playing volleyball will end at the close of this season, and while lacrosse is her future, she still gives nothing less than 100 percent on the court.

"Looking at her, you can never tell if we're winning or losing," Alamia said. "She's laser-focused."

Cuccurullo conceded that she's not sure what to study when she gets to Harvard, but said that she has always been interested by science and social studies.

Alamia is sure that she will find success in whatever path she chooses.

"I brag about her a lot to other coaches," Alamia said. "She's someone you want kids in your program to look up to. I know Harvard's getting a great kid."


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