A visit to the USF campus is standard procedure for many recruits, but for outside hitter Marcela Gurgel it was much more. The opportunity to come to the United States was something she hoped for since her early teens.
Coach Claire Lessinger made that dream a reality when she offered Gurgel a scholarship to play volleyball for the Bulls. Gurgel, a redshirt freshman, never thought twice about leaving her homeland of Brazil and making the move to America.
She left her parents, Rodrigo and Maria, for the first time to take advantage of the opportunity that volleyball had given her. She doesn’t regret her decision because she is living a personal dream.
“It was always a dream of mine to come to the United States, so when I got to come here and see what I could have made my decision easy,” Gurgel said. “I had a lot of universities that talked with me, but South Florida was the only one that offered me a chance to play.”
Gurgel enjoyed her visit and knew right away USF was the right place for her to play volleyball and get an education.
Living in an extremely poor section of Brazil, Gurgel watched her parents and other relatives work hard every day but have little to show for it. She realized that the only way she would have a chance for a rewarding career was to come to USF.
“It is very hard to have a successful career in my home country because people don’t get compensated for their work,” Gurgel said. “I always wanted to leave my country to play volleyball because it’s the love of my life and I wanted to be valued on the court.”
Gurgel struggled on the volleyball court in Brazil because her height, 5’11”, was looked at as a disadvantage. She made up her mind that her game was valued more in the United States and has not been disappointed.
USF assistant coach Erik Peterson noticed Gurgel while scouting her club team at a tournament in Texas. Former USF player Flavia Silveria told Peterson about Gurgel’s talent and that she would fit perfectly on the Bulls’ squad.
Silveria apparently knew what she was talking about.
Gurgel has been a pleasant surprise to the team this season, especially on the offensive side of the net. Gurgel is leading the Big East in kills per game at 4.85 and service aces at 0.68 a game.
“Making the transition from international play to collegiate play was easier for her than a player coming from high school,” Lessinger said. “She doesn’t get wrapped up in how good a team is because she doesn’t know the history of that team. She just goes out and plays hard no matter who we are playing.”
Lessinger sees Gurgel in the mold of Michelle Collier, one of USF’s most talented players in the history of the program. She believes Gurgel is the type of player she can build a program around.
Along with freshman setter Brittany Castelamare, who has an opportunity to play due to senior Juliana Noqueira’s leg injury, Gurgel is achieving quick success in her first season. Gurgel and Castelamare are getting a jump start on becoming a major tandem in the future.
Gurgel is enjoying her first season on the floor and is happy with her early success on the court. However, she is quick to point out that she would give up all of her stats to add a couple of victories in the wins column this season.
“I care more about the success of the team than my own personal success,” Gurgel said. “We have a lot of talent and I think we are heading in the right direction.”