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Sophomore Giannina Cipolloni and the Virginia softball team host NC State in a big conference series this weekend at The Park. The Cavaliers and Wolfpack will play a doubleheader at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday before concluding the series at 1 p.m. Sunday. Cipolloni recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to chat about the season, her role as the lead-off hitter, what she does in her free time and who on the team rivals her dancing skills.

Question: How would you describe the season thus far? What has been different this year?
Cipolloni:
Everyone is contributing. We compete every game. We have had some good wins over big teams. Last year we would have walked on the field scared because of the name on the jersey. This year we walk on the field and are excited to play.

Question: You have big series coming up in conference play against NC State and Boston College. What do you have to do to come out with positive results?
Cipolloni:
We have to come to play every game for these next 10 games. If we can do that we will be in good position for a chance to make (NCAA) regionals for the first time ever. It’s a big deal to me but I’m sure for the upperclassmen, this is a dream for them. But we have to come in and take care of business.

Question: Has your second year been easier since you know what to expect?
Cipolloni:
This semester so far has been my best semester school-wise, so staying on top of my schoolwork has helped me all around because I am not as stressed. This year I have come in a lot more for extras, and that is hard to do as a first year when you don’t have a car. And I’ve had more time to do that. Another thing that is different is this year I think I am more mentally stable. Right now I am struggling a little at the plate and if that would have happened last year, I would have broken down. You have to turn that page and keep moving forward. You’re only as good as your next at-bat.

Question: What are the challenges of being the lead-off hitter?
Cipolloni:
It’s a lot of pressure because you set the tone for the game. It makes me step up as more of a leader. I start the game, I see the pitcher first.

Question: Would you say playing center field is also a leadership role?
Cipolloni:
It’s the leadership role of the outfield and you are expected to cover a lot of ground. But we have a great time out there.

Question: How did you end up at UVa? What was the appeal for you?
Cipolloni:
Academics were a big thing for me. It was closer to come, close but not too far. Charlottesville is a great city to live in; there is always something to do. I like the way the team is built – there are a lot of different personalities but we all come together as a family. It is a home away from home.

Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Cipolloni:
In the fall, we actually hung out at my place a lot. Clara (Kendall) and I bought a (Nintendo) Wii. Well, Clara bought the Wii and I play the Wii. But we had a lot of people over, baked cookies and played Rock Band. We went to a lot of volleyball games and basketball games. This spring, when I’ve had free time, I’ve just been catching up on work and sleep.

Question: What are you going to major in?
Cipolloni:
I want to declare in psychology. I really don’t know what I want to do yet – probably something with softball.

Question: Next season your sister Erica will be one of your teammates. Are you excited to play with her again?
Cipolloni:
Definitely. We are like a dynamic duo on the field and we have always played together. It’s not going to be any different. We will probably get into some fights but other than that it should be a good time.

Question: Your family is often here to watch, are you excited they get to come see you play as much as they do?
Cipolloni:
My parents have always been to my games and next year I am sure they will be down here all the time next year with two of us playing. I also have a dog named Gucci Armani and I love when he comes to visit.

Question: Does anyone else on the team rival your dance skills? What is the latest dance you’ve learned?
Cipolloni:
Lo (McCaskey) is a pretty go dancer but I don’t think besides that I have any competition. I just learned the “Little Lad Dance.” It’s not really a hip-hop routine like “Single Ladies.” It’s off of berries ‘n crème from the Starburst commercials. Alexa (Martinez) sent it to me and I had it down in 20 minutes.

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