Set For Success
She was a star on the court and in the classroom; now she coaches other students.
BY GWENDOLYN GABRIELLE
Alumna Iona Lofrano credits her success to her unstoppable drive, which serves her on the volleyball court and in the classroom.
One of the top outside hitters in the country, Lofrano was the first three-time All-American at Cal State LA and led the Golden Eagles in kills during her junior and senior years. Now, she is developing new skills as a volunteer with the volleyball team.
“I’ve always had a lot of goals for myself, and I don’t like to settle,” Lofrano explains. “I always think that I can do more. Even [after] what I did here the last three years…I still want more.”
Wanting something more—and something different—is what landed Lofrano at Cal State LA.
She was raised in a soccer family in Northern California’s Meadow Vista. Her father Fred Lofrano, now a referee, was her soccer coach when she was growing up. Her mother, Gillian Lofrano, was also hands-on with her daughter’s soccer career, and Gillian still plays a few nights a week. Lofrano was a shoo-in to continue playing soccer in high school and college.
But during her junior year of high school, Lofrano told her family she planned to play volleyball instead of soccer.
“I think I broke my dad’s heart,” she recalls. Though he disagreed with her choice, he didn’t try to stop her.
While attending high school, she also played with Cal Synergy Volleyball Club and Force Volleyball Club.
Lofrano had never heard of Cal State LA until she was approached by a recruiter. As soon as she stepped foot on campus, she fell in love. The campus felt warm and welcoming and Lofrano felt comfortable moving here, six hours away from her parents. Southern California’s warm weather also helped sway her decision.
But the awards and recognition Lofrano had grown accustomed to did not follow her to Cal State LA—not right away. Like all freshmen, she spent her first year on the bench as a redshirt. She went from accolades to silence.
“It’s really hard [to go through that]. But obviously I wasn’t going to quit.”
She spent the off-season improving her game, and when she got the chance to play during her sophomore season, she racked up the accolades and led the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) with 513 kills.
As a senior, the exercise science major received the 2015 Cal State LA Billie Jean King Scholarship. She was named to the 2015 Academic All-America Division II Volleyball Team, which recognizes the nation’s top student-athletes for their performances athletically and in the classroom.
Lofrano credits much of her success to former Coach Randi Smart and former Assistant Coach Jeff Alzina.
“They have both given me so much, not only in volleyball, but in life.”
She considers them mentors as well as friends. Lofrano is grateful to have had two coaches who continuously educate themselves in order to educate their team. Smart and Alzina dedicate time to their players, even during the offseason.
Alzina says Lofrano’s biggest strength is her focus. “She doesn’t want to be good at whatever she puts her time into. She wants to be the best.”
Lofrano always enjoyed learning, and she found a way to balance her class work and her team responsibilities.
“You have to set your priorities,” says Lofrano, who maintained a 3.64 GPA her senior year.
Lofrano is currently working on a Master of Science in kinesiology with an option in exercise science.
Because of connections she was able to make through her coaches, Lofrano has had the opportunity to coach a few teams of her own.
Serving as a volunteer with Cal State LA’s volleyball team allows her to learn more about game tactics, recruiting, and creating practice plans based around opposing teams. She loves working with teenage players and is considering a future career in volleyball coaching.
But the drive to serve and spike has not diminished. This spring, Lofrano is participating in the University’s first beach volleyball team.
“[Cal State LA] has a small community feel,” Lofrano says. “I’ve always had good relationships with all of my professors. Everyone is willing to get you what you need, and then they give you more. I’ve been fortunate to be so successful here.”
Gwendolyn Gabrielle is a graduate student majoring in television, film and theatre with a focus in dramatic writing.