Bridging the Gap

Caitlin Rimgaila embodies the concept of a student-athlete.
For most, college is either a place to learn or a place to play. For Rimgaila, it’s both. She is a force on the court, a force in the classroom and a force on campus.

The 6’2″ senior middle blocker on the St. John’s women’s volleyball team leads the Red Storm in blocked shots and is second in kills. Rimgaila is a leader on a team that holds a 27-1 overall record and is undefeated in the Big East at 12-0.

Rimgaila found her way to St. John’s from the Philadelphia suburb of Trooper, Pa., in a nontraditional way. After being recruited by schools such as Maryland and Delaware she signed a letter of intent to play at Northern Arizona. After “complications” with the Northern Arizona coaching staff, her plans “fell through” and she obtained her release. With most of the scholarships already given out by other Division I programs, Rimgaila was lucky enough to find St. John’s relatively late by recruiting standards.

“It was a big shock at first,” Rimgaila said about the late change. “I was really prepared to go out there to Flagstaff. Then I realized that that wasn’t the place I wanted to be. I wanted to stay closer to home and it’s definitely worked out for the best.”
Rimgaila is part of a Red Storm team enjoying its best season ever. St. John’s has not needed more than four games to defeat a conference opponent and it has swept its last 10 matches. The hopes of a Big East championship look extremely promising.

When she arrived at St. John’s, Rimgaila, who majors in communications arts, concentrated on both athletics and academics. She’s a junior on the court, a senior in the classroom. She’s represented her school in various ways including at the APPLE Conference for Student Development in Anaheim, Calif., and on a Spring Break service project in New Orleans. She’s a member of the President’s Society and is the co-founder of STAR (Students Teaching Athletes Responsibility), a student mentoring program.

And those kinds of things are just as important as kills, blocks and aces. If you disagree, just ask her mom. “Caitlin has excelled in the classroom and that is what will carry her through any future career endeavors as well as personal endeavors,” Maureen Rothman Rimgaila said. “Her results both on and off the court are a matter of personal pride in doing the best she can with whatever she chooses to do.”

Maureen, who Rimgaila considers everything from team mom to role model to biggest fan, was in attendance at what Rimgaila considers to be the team’s shiniest of the many shiny moments all year: a three-game sweep on Notre Dame’s home court on Oct. 22. That’s the same home court on which the Fighting Irish had only lost once since joining the Big East in 1995.

“It was wonderful,” said Rimgaila, who had 10 kills in the match. “People filed out like it was a funeral, they did not expect us to win. It was great.”

Rimgaila expects to graduate this year and begin a Master’s program next fall. She still has one more year of volleyball eligibility. So will she be back in the red and white next season? “I think so,” she says with a smile.

The Red Storm certainly wouldn’t mind having her back. And her mother won’t mind traveling.