Caterina Cigarini, 23, has known since she was 12 years old that she would play volleyball, but the sport has brought much more to her life than she originally imagined. Now, as her collegiate volleyball career comes to a close, she is taking a look back at the relationships she made and the lessons she learned during her time as a Spartan.

Caterina Cigarini celebrates a scored point against Texas Wesleyan University with teammates during the NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2019. Cigarini would post a season-high 22 kills to help lead the Spartans to a 3-2 victory.      Photos courtesy of MBU Athletics


Caterina Cigarini has known for more than a decade that she would play competitive volleyball at a high level, and now the All-American spends most of her time taking what she’s learned from volleyball to guide her actions in the rest of her life.

Cigarini, 23, a senior sports management major with a business administration minor, pursued many sports as a child in her home town of Modena, Italy.

In fact, sports consumed much of her time as she was always an active kid. She swam, rode horses, participated in karate, gymnastics, skiing and tennis.

Although she stayed very active, she knew her passion for volleyball would be the foundation of her dedication and hard work that MBU has seen in her college volleyball career.

“There is nothing about the sport that I don’t love,” Cigarini said. “I love being part of a team, the competition and hard work. I love the environment and excitement around volleyball, especially where I am from.”

Cigarini said volleyball has left her with memories to last a lifetime, especially her time playing for the junior national team.

In the 2018-19 season, Cigarini made the NAIA Women’s Volleyball First Team All-American.

She’s thankful for the opportunities she’s been given through volleyball, like being named All-American, and has taken many lessons from the sport.

“Volleyball has given me everything that I know about life. Anything great in life comes from dedication and hard work,” Cigarini said in a text message. “Time management, willingness to sacrifice and mentality are all important lessons that I have taken from volleyball.”

Cigarini’s teammates know she leaves everything on the court, and they know she makes the team better overall.

Kamden Maas, 22, a junior biotech major from Carlsbad, California, said she respects Cigarini as a player because of her work ethic and commitment.

“Cate is an outstanding player,” Mass said in a text. “Every time she steps on the court not only does she tremendously elevate our team’s play but also sets a higher standard for everyone playing.”

Mass added: “She embodies the concept that volleyball remains a team sport and knows she could never accomplish her rewards without all of us.”

Cigarini said she shares the same respect for her teammates, knowing that she can always rely on them to have her back.

“The most rewarding aspect about volleyball is feeling the support of your teammates on and off the court because we are not just a team but a family,” Cigarini said in a text.

Cigarini posing with her 2019 AMC First-Team All-American Award.

Sarah Bolton, 21, a junior exercise science major from Florissant, Missouri, agreed.

“Caterina’s best attribute is her determination during the matches. She stays focused and is ready to beat any competition that comes her way,” Bolton said.

Cigarini appreciates the opportunities she’s had because of her gift in the sport, but she said she is especially thankful for the opportunity that Chris Nichols, women’s head volleyball coach and beach volleyball coach, gave her when he recruited her as well.

“Everything I learned and improved here I owe it to Coach Nichols,” Cigarini said. “He recruited me … and believed in my potential. I like to say that he is my American dad because he didn’t just help me to improve on the field, but he taught me how to become a better person.”

By Sarah Broyles

Sarah Broyles is a staff journalist for MBU Timeline. Sarah is a public relations major. The St. Louis native currently works for her family business, Etiquette Saint Louis, and is a staff instructor for the National Cheerleaders Association. After graduating she plans to work in corporate public relations and continue to use words to make an impact in society.