Motivation, Work Ethic and Personality All Staples of Buscetto’s Career
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
Owls’ softball shortstop Sara Buscetto has worked hard to get to where she is, both as a player and as a leader. A senior captain, she never sugarcoats things and keeps it as real as possible with her teammates and everyone around her, a personality which has been a driving factor towards her success and relationship with her teammates.
“Coming in freshman year I was very scared of her, but as soon as we hit spring season, I felt like I could talk to her about anything,” said catcher Jacqueline Dumont, a sophomore. “She always has our backs, no matter if it’s softball related, academics, socially. She’s so hard working and every single one of us looks up to her because of that.”
Buscetto, originally from New London, comes from an athletically driven family, particularly with baseball. Her uncle was an All-American at the University of New Haven before playing in the minor leagues, and one cousin played softball at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., while her other cousin played baseball at Western Connecticut. With a family history of sports, Buscetto got involved at a young age.
“My dad wanted me to get involved with sports,” Buscetto said. “He had me try soccer, he tried to have me play basketball, and then I played baseball for a little while, and that was the sport I liked the most – it was the sport I was good at. My uncle worked with me a lot; I watched my cousins play and I loved it. I love diving, I love getting dirty, I loved everything about it.”
Throughout her career playing softball, she has found herself playing multiple positions across the diamond. She was a corner infielder and recruited as both a third baseman and a catcher. However, the primary role she settled into was shortstop. And her idol, as is the case for many young shortstops, is Derek Jeter.
“I like shortstop the best. It’s a very important position in both baseball and softball; I would say catcher and shortstop are the leaders of the field,” said Buscetto. “Derek Jeter [is my favorite], I don’t think that comes as a shock – I’m a big Derek Jeter fan.”
Once high school hit, Buscetto had a change in scenery, moving from New London to Waterford, Conn., just a week before she started her freshman year. It was an experience she described as “pretty weird,” yet it was a move that paid off for her.
“It was different, but the transition was easy because of the people that were around me,” Buscetto said. “The school systems were better; the softball team was really good… the high school was great, no complaints.”
During her time at Waterford High School, her career began to take off, as she saw much success throughout her four years. She helped her team to co-division championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015 on the way to a Class M state championship in 2013. In addition, she was the team MVP her junior year and an All-Eastern Connecticut Conference selection as a junior and senior. She was also named to The Day All-Area team twice and to the Norwich Bulletin All-Area team as a senior.
Another award she earned was the Colby Sousa Memorial Award, which she was given twice. The award is given in the honor of Colby Sousa, a former All-Conference softball player in Waterford who died suddenly in 2005, to highlight hard work and dedication instead of overall stats alone. Buscetto says that award was “more about character” than about skill.
“I think the biggest thing that I took away [from high school] was just leadership,” Buscetto said. “I came in as a freshman and started on a team that had a lot of seniors, so I was kind of afraid to step into that leadership role because I didn’t want to demand their respect. I wanted to earn their respect. And that’s always a big thing for me is earning the respect of my teammates. Throughout my high school career, yes, I learned I had natural athletic ability, but the biggest thing is being a leader on the field and having my teammates have faith and trust in me.”
Buscetto said that she began looking at colleges with her family during her freshman year of high school, but she was not a highly recruited prospect, as she never played in any AAU or showcase leagues, so her recruitment profile was solely based off of high school. It was through her assistant high school coach, Jennifer Ward, who played collegiately with current Owls head coach Jill Rispoli at UConn, that Rispoli and the Owls began their recruitment of Buscetto.
“She came on campus, she was energetic, enthusiastic… and we wanted to roll out the red carpet,” Rispoli said of Buscetto’s recruitment, “because she’s a kid from down the street and she’s a tremendous athlete, so we were not going to let her go.”
For Buscetto, once the recruitment process was over and she was indeed going to play in college, she was ecstatic while also relieved.
“It was surreal for me, like, ‘oh my god, I’m going to play in college!’ So, I came to Southern and I was like, ‘this is it, this is where I want to go,’” Buscetto said. “It was so relieving, it was a lot of weight off my shoulders because I was a junior at the time so I did have another year but I didn’t want it to be something that I stressed about [as a senior].”
Since she has been at Southern, Buscetto has been a mainstay in the Owls’ lineup. Working her way up to the leadoff spot in Rispoli’s lineup, her aggressive approach at the plate, more often than not swinging at the first pitch she sees, has led to consistent production.
While she has never been a homerun hitter, only tallying four through her four years, Buscetto has batted .331 for her career while batting .300 in 43 games as a junior and hitting .474 through nine games in 2020, before the season was called off due to COVID-19. In addition, she is lightning fast and just 21 steals away from the program record.
“Her athleticism and her speed, I don’t even want to say developed so much because she came in flying, she was just outrageous,” said Rispoli. “She just developed into an outstanding shortstop who can cover the 5-6 hole, up the middle, she can do anything.”
Off the field this year, she received the Top Owl Social Justice Award at Southern for the month of January, an award given to a student on campus who is recognized for contributions toward helping the university achieve its mission of creating and sustaining an inclusive community that appreciates, celebrates, and advances student and campus diversity.
Despite her personal success, there has been a lack of team success throughout Buscetto’s Southern career. The Owls have not had a winning season since she has been here and the most wins her team has gotten with her was 11 in 2018. Despite this, Buscetto has always looked to make the situation something positive.
“It definitely is not fun to not win, that’s something that I’ve really learned is that losing is not fun when you play 43 games in a year and you only win 12,” said Buscetto. “But with that, I’ve learned that there is always light at the end of the tunnel and it is only up from there. You’ve got to keep pushing and let those things go, you can’t harp on a loss or on a strikeout or an error.”
Though she is a senior, and her senior season cut short just seven games in due to the pandemic, the NCAA has granted blanket-waivers for spring sport seniors, which Buscetto is taking advantage of. As a result, the Owls will bring a full roster back in 2021 along with enticing new freshmen. While Rispoli commended Buscetto for her motivation and drive through the losing seasons, she believes her final year will consist of many more wins based on the roster they have for next season.
“We’re lucky to have her back [next year], we’re thrilled to have her back in a leadership position,” said Rispoli. “We’re getting the entire roster back, and that only means experience. They’re going to be stronger, healthier, more experienced, that’s all a plus and that’s a check in our column. We’re a great roster. And as many people see this thing as a dark cloud, maybe the silver lining is that next year looks bright.”
And for Buscetto, she is locked in for 2021, as she is motivated and determined to go out in a meaningful way, but more importantly, she is going out on her terms.
“I don’t like that my career was ended because of a virus, a pandemic, I don’t like that, I’ll go out on my own terms,” Buscetto said. “I’m thankful that the NCAA made the right decision and gave me and all the other athletes in my position that year back, and I’m thankful for Southern… yes I am coming back, we’re not done yet.”