Published August 11. 2013 4:00AM
Her basketball career, post Montville High School, wasn't quite working out until Lindsay Stergio found her way to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., last season.
Gallaudet specializes in programs for the hearing impaired, allowing Stergio, who is deaf, a comfort zone she had yet to find while first attending Southern Connecticut State University, then Eastern Connecticut.
"Playing for Gallaudet University last season, after two years of not being on a team, helped me to get back at a competitive level," Stergio said this week in an email. "What it also did was made me realize how much I missed playing, and my passion for the sport was renewed."
On Aug. 3, Stergio reached what she calls the pinnacle of her basketball career.
Playing for the United States in the 22nd Summer Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria, Stergio finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Americans captured the gold medal with an 81-57 victory over Ukraine. A 6-foot forward, Stergio was 8-for-10 shooting for the U.S., which last won the gold medal in 2005.
"Playing and representing the United States was the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life," said Stergio, a 2008 graduate of Montville, where she was an All-Eastern Connecticut Conference honorable mention pick as a senior.
"I felt so proud and honored to be an American representing my country. The feeling that you get is just one of those indescribable moments. Receiving a gold medal made the experience that much more amazing."
Stergio, whose parents Mark and Susan and brother Marcus were able to join her in Bulgaria, will return to Gallaudet this fall to complete her final year of basketball eligibility. Gallaudet is a Division III school.
She was invited to be part of the U.S. team in the Deaf World Games in 2015 and hopes to be part of the next Deaflympics in 2017 in Turkey.
Competition was held in 19 sports in Sofia, where the U.S. athletes stayed together in a hotel at the city's center. Stergio called the city "welcoming and beautiful" and she was intrigued at the way sign language varied from country to country.
"I was amazed to see so many different countries represented within the deaf world. Each country had their own variation of signing, representing their different language and culture," Stergio said. "It was fun for my teammates and myself to sign with them and try to understand them and vice versa.
"... It was also really fun and exciting to meet other deaf athletes from the USA. I have formed some new friendships with this entire experience."
Stergio plans to stay connected with the deaf world both personally and professionally, hoping to begin coaching basketball as an assistant at Gallaudet after she's done playing.
She started all 25 games for the Bison (7-18) last year and led the team in points (375), rebounds (225), assists (64), steals (50) and blocks (8), earning second team All-North Eastern Athletic Conference honors.
At the Deaflympics, Stergio led the U.S. in its 90-25 quarterfinal victory over Japan with 16 points and 18 rebounds and the Americans topped Greece 66-51 in the semifinals.
"I believe I played really well and did my best. Some days were better than others, of course, but I always gave 110 percent effort," Stergio said.
"Two years ago I thought basketball and my love for the sport was all coming to an end, but now it is just the beginning of what I hope to be a lifetime of involvement and commitment to what I love to do."