Oct. 7, 2009
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For Gianna Cavuoto, the decision to become a Lobo, a Baylor Bear or an Arizona State Sun Devil came down, in part, to this little voice in her head.
Yeah, kids do say the darnedest things. For the University of New Mexico, it probably was best that when Cavuoto came to visit UNM that Lobo coach Kit's Vela's firstborn - Paolo Vela - was a talkative toddler.
"Before I left, little P said to me, `We want you to be a Lobo'," said Cavuoto. "I remembered what he said the whole time I was making my decision. That just made me realize and feel how much soccer was a family at New Mexico.
"I think P was the biggest recruiter for me."
If so, Vela needs to include Paolo in a few more of her recruiting pitches. Cavuoto, a sophomore transfer by way of the Florida Gators and Australia, is a good catch. She is part of the starting defensive backfield of Elizabeth Lambert, Jess Quador and Roxie McFarland that has helped pushed the Lobos to their gaudy 9-1-2 record.
"What a ride," said Cavuoto. "We know we have worked hard to achieve our success, but do you really anticipate where we are now? We all click, we all want to succeed and we'll all do whatever it takes."
Said Vela: "Gianna is a part of a group that is working hard to make themselves better. She also has worked hard to get where she is. At the end of last year, she sat down and asked us, `What do I need to do to play?' We gave her a list."
The list really was simple enough: work your butt off. That's what Cavuoto did. She played club ball at a high level over the summer and wasn't just playing for the sake of the games.
"She worked on her skills, her fitness, her weaknesses," said Vela. "A lot of kids aren't willing to do that. She came back and her objective was to win a starting role. She had to earn it and she did the things she needed to do to earn it."
It was a big jump for Cavuoto, who transferred to UNM prior to the 2008 season and saw limited time off the bench. "I played 91 minutes," she recalls. "But I believe if you work hard, you'll get your reward some day."
Cavuoto grew up in Adelaide, Australia. She began swimming at the age of two and jumped into soccer at 13. It became her love. She also had a dream: to make the Australian National Team, to be an Olympian.
"I think I lost that hope for a while," she said. "It's back."
As a Lobo, Cavuoto has a dual reputation. As a talker. As a bruiser. Rumor has it that after a practice session with Cavuoto, her teammates look forward to the soft and gentle tackles from the enemy.
"I'm a strong communicator," Cavuoto says, shrugging off one of her labels. "But you have to put Liz (Lambert) in there, too, when it comes to being one of the brutes on the team.
"You put Liz and I in the ring and I don't know who would win. I think Kit might have been worried about putting us together because we are so aggressive."
Cavuoto was recruited to Florida, a traditional hotbed for soccer talent and players with long resumes of youth achievement. She wasn't sure she would be given a chance to crack that lineup of blue chippers. She looked for more of a blue-collar team.
"New Mexico was one of the last schools I looked at," she said. "I really didn't know that New Mexico existed. I was online looking and it just popped up. I liked what I saw."
Eventually, Cavuoto liked what she heard, too. Thanks, P. The Lobos and Cavuoto are both the better for it.