Gianna Kubu’s prowess on the softball field was never more evident than a play she made in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions game, at Seton Hall University, last June 7.
Kubu, then a junior, was playing right field for her Cedar Grove High team. An errant throw down the first base line looked to open the flood gates for a quick start by Donovan Catholic, but Kubu was in the right place, backing up the play and her instincts kept further runs off the board.
Cedar Grove completed a 27-5 season in 2019, which included a second Group 1 title in the past three years and third in the last five seasons. Kubu has been a part of a pair of Group 1 champions, as well as three straight state sectional championship teams.
And now, as the personable young lady begins her senior year of high school, she’s made a big decision. Kubu, the daughter of Ginamaree and Joseph Kubu, will attend the University of Hartford, an NCAA Division 1 school, where she’ll play softball, starting next fall. Hartford University is located in West Hartford, Ct.
Gianna will pursue a degree in Biology and Chemistry, as she’ll work toward a career medicine.
“I am more than excited and extremely grateful to get the opportunity to continue my passion for playing softball in college,” she said on Nov. 13, at Cedar Grove High, when her decision became official. “For me, the University of Hartford is a place that I can easily call my second home. I never understood the expression how looking for a college, is similar to looking for a wedding dress. The very first visit to Hartford gave me the ‘this is the one’ kind of feeling. I now know what that expression means.
“Meeting the coaches and players was one of my favorite moments, really drawing me to make my decision. The ‘Championship Mindset’ was revolving around the whole University, not only in sports and academics, but for everything.
“When it comes to playing softball, I knew that I would not be able to function without playing the sport I love in college. Softball was a main part in shaping my character of independence, determination, competitiveness, drive, communication, leadership, and most importantly making some of the best friendships I could have ever asked for. The people I got to meet on every single team have been the most fun, kind, intelligent, talented, and driven people. I believe Hartford is the perfect second home and family for me.”
Cedar Grove coach Nicole Velardi is ecstatic about Gianna’s decision.
“Gianna has been a part of keeping our program at a championship level,” said Velardi, who will begin her fifth season as head softball coach this coming spring. “Over the past three seasons, she’s been a part of three sectional titles, two state championships and an Essex County Tournament championship, as well as two Tournament of Champions appearances.”
Gianna’s parents are also excited for their daughter’s future.
“We are so very proud of Gianna, both academically and athletically,” said Ginamaree Kubu. “My husband and I just wanted to find a school that she loved and felt a connection to. I believe we all liked the University of Hartford the minute we stepped on campus. Then Gianna clicked with the girls on the team. They embraced her as if she were on the team already.
“Coach (Angie) Churchill (Hartford’s head coach) just sealed the deal. She made Gianna feel so important and special. If was our dream, as parents, to see her pick her own school on her own terms.”
Family is very important to Gianna, as well as her coaches and teammates.
“When it comes to my family, throughout my college searching process, my family could not have been more supportive,” said Gianna “Every time I was stressing about something, my mom and dad were instantly there, telling me everything will work out and everything happens for a reason. Most importantly, my brother, Joe, was the first person I could talk to about anything. I am so lucky I had a brother like him during that time because he would always help me through tough times, and be there to congratulate me during some of the best times. Both my brother and I support each other in every sport we played. I am so grateful to have a brother that I can call my best friend. Without him, I would not have been as optimistic.”
Growing up in a solid softball community in Cedar Grove also helped.
“ I have been playing softball practically my whole life and sometime, it got extremely rough. For example, I would gain a lack of confidence in myself, and thought I would never be good enough. All of these doubts occurred during my transition to high school softball. During my lessons with the legendary Coach (Ray) Vandermay, he would be the only person who could make me believe in myself, because I knew he believed in me. Coach was, and is still today, my mentor.
“Additionally, during my high school softball season, my two coaches, Nikki and (assistant) Pete (Velardi) really pushed me to my full talent. Without them, I would have never become as tough or eager to be the best version of myself. They showed everyone, including me, what a softball family, with a championship mindset, should be like. When high school softball was out of season, I was playing for NJ Heist, my club team. My club coach, Sergio (Rodriguez) played a huge role in supporting me in the most important years of softball for me.
“He made softball during the most stressful times, so much fun. Playing for Coach Sergio made me remember why I play the sport, and how much fun I have playing it. I am more than grateful to have had such a great group of mentors throughout my softball experience.”
Kubu batted .337 last season with 31 hits seven doubles, one triple, 13 RBI and 31 runs scored.