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Cintron's Combination Of Skills Makes Her One Of Best In Div. 3


26 October 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE STAR-LEDGER. All rights reserved. 


Nature and nurture were never at odds in Lizzelle Cintron's development as a volleyball player. They worked in perfect harmony.

The New Jersey City freshman inherited a 9-11 vertical reach from her father, a former basketball and volleyball player. From her environment, she developed an instinct for defense.

The combination has made the 5-9 middle blocker one of the best Division 3 players in the country. Not only does Cintron lead Division 3 in kills per game (6.36), but she also has had five 30-dig matches this season.

"She's a major offensive threat," coach Christopher Feliciano said. "And even though she's not ranked in the nation in digs, she has had four 30-kill, 30-dig matches."

Cintron has spiked a school-record 604 kills this season and owns a staggering .416 hitting percentage. She also leads the team with 5.2 digs per game.

Those numbers have earned her national recognition. Cintron was named American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of Week the first week of the season. Since then, she has earned Eastern College Athletic Conference Division 3 Player of Week honors three times and was named Player of the Week four times by both the Association of Division 3 Independents and the Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The daughter of two former volleyball players, Cintron said she had a natural inclination toward the sport. She also was gifted with an incredible vertical leap that has allowed her to compensate for her lack of height at the net.

"My jump is what helps me, and the passes obviously," she said. "I prefer offense. It gives me power. I have a lot of control with the ball and know where to put it. Defense is harder."

Cintron learned defense as a means of self-preservation. She grew up in Puerto Rico, where her court was a concrete schoolyard and the alternative to quick positioning was diving for a dig.

"I only dove once," she said. "My whole hand got scratched and started bleeding and I had to come out of the game. So I learned to get in position so I wouldn't have to dive."

Such adaptability has helped Cintron, a First Team All-State selection last fall at Elizabeth High School, dominate on the collegiate level. At the start of the season her attacks were being dug. So she adjusted her swing and body positioning to better move the ball. She also dedicated herself to reading the block better on defense.

"Her personality is what has made her so dominant," Feliciano said. "She came in with great ability, but at the same time she is very coachable. She's very attentive to the details of fixing her game."

Cintron's improvement has had a direct impact on New Jersey City (23-5), which has strung together a school-record 13 straight victories and is three shy of the school season record of 26 set in 1997.

The Gothic Knights now have their sights set on the WIAC title. They will host the tournament on Saturday and are seeded second behind Stevens. Two of New Jersey City's five losses have come against Stevens this season.

"We want it," Cintron said. "We are practicing a lot harder. We want to play our best and play a perfect game against them, because we know we can beat them."

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