Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Maria Scaffidi knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle. In her junior year she helped lead the Huskers to the 2010 NCAA Championships, giving the team their first berth in the championships since 2007. And as she approaches her senior season with Nebraska she knows exactly what her team needs to be successful.
"Leading up to the season, the biggest thing that we are emphasizing is confidence. I cannot stress that enough," Scaffidi said.
Heading into the 2009 campaign, Scaffidi was prepared to lead the Huskers as a fierce and competitive all-arounder. Her goals were abruptly cut short as she experienced an injury in preseason training that ended her season.
Nebraska coach Dan Kendig and Scaffidi both say that sitting out a season completely changed the student-athlete's view of the sport and her approach as a teammate.
"Sitting out a year really affected me in a positive way," Scaffidi said. "It made me realize how much I could be there for my teammates even though I was injured and not participating in an event. It also gave me a huge drive to come back the next year and get stronger and better."
Scaffidi came back from her injury in 2010 as if she hadn't missed a beat, proving to be a consistent all-around performer for the Huskers in every meet but one. She totaled six individual titles as a junior, including four in the all-around. She hit career highs of 9.85 on vault, 9.85 on beam, 9.90 on floor and 39.30 in the all-around during her junior campaign. In addition, she was named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Fall and Spring Honor Rolls and received Second-Team Academic All-Big 12 accolades.
She helped her team to a seventh-place finish at the 2010 NCAA Championships, performing as Nebraska's sole all-around competitor and narrowly missing All-America accolades on floor. Despite having to watch the Super Six Team Finals from the stands on the final night of team competition, Scaffidi said that experience catapulted the team's attitude to where it is today.
"We had a ton of fun at Nationals and it was really a joy to be there and end up seventh," Scaffidi said. "We learned to not get flustered and that competing at Nationals is just like every other competition throughout the year."
Scaffidi has taken an added responsibility in being a fifth-year senior and unspoken leader of this year's Husker squad. It's something that has taken hold in her mindset and come into play through her actions.
"Being a senior has just made me realize that it is very important to be a positive influence and a leader," Scaffidi said. "It just comes down to being calm so everyone around me will be calm and confident when they see me like that."
Kendig has seen Scaffidi take on a different role in her final year and is pleased that she is accepting her leadership responsibilities.
"She has stepped into her leadership shoes and has really begun focusing on her teammates more," Kendig said. "She is very strong and has a lot of experience for us in the gym, and her ability to compete in the all-around gives us a lot of depth."
With a newfound perspective and enthusiasm for the sport, Scaffidi and the preseason 10th-ranked Huskers are ready to conquer their goals for 2011 as they work toward their 20th conference title and national prominence.