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Coming together

The USF volleyball team recently returned from an 11-day trip to Brazil. The Bulls played exhibition matches against the Brazilian national team and did community service work. PHOTO SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Teams work best when they are on the same page, and certain chemistry evolves when every player is focused on the same goal. After the USF volleyball team spent 11 days together in Brazil – both on and off the court – the Bulls have developed that certain chemistry. Now USF will work to make its second consecutive trip to the Big East Tournament.

Head coach Claire Lessinger has made a trip like this before, and knows an experience like this can really bring a team together.

“The NCAA grants teams permission, one in every four years, to take an international tour,” Lessinger said. “(Assistant head coach) Nikki (Shade) and I both played at the University of Florida and got the great opportunity to travel to Europe. We were able to see the huge benefits an international tour brings to a team.”

The team spent 10 days in Brazil and visited three major cities as well as several smaller ones along the way. The team went to Rio de Janeiro, Sugarloaf and Sao Paulo.

“When we were in Rio, we were able to play against the Brazilian national team in their Olympic training facility,” Lessinger said. “It was a great experience for the team, because I think it made us closer.”

The trip consisted of many team-related activities. USF played in a total of five exhibition matches over the course of the trip and against some of the toughest teams in Brazil.

Junior Stephanie Augustavo believes the trip will have a positive impact on the team.

“We were able to see some really close teams play and we were able to compete against them, so we learned a lot from the top club teams in the country,” Augustavo said. “Doing tourist things off the court really made us closer, too.”

In addition to enjoying Brazil’s beaches and embarking on a team hiking trip, the players got involved in the community.

“We did some community service while in Sao Paulo,” Lessinger said. “We went to a cultural center where kids are literally being brought in off the street and being given some sort of opportunity for an education.”

The team did not have to teach the students reading, writing and arithmetics. The students in Brazil had their own method of study.

“The students there learn with dance, music or crafts,” Lessinger said. “So our girls went in there and we danced. They taught us some of their dances, and we showed them some of ours.”

The Bulls returned from their trip ready for camp and with a much different respect for one another.

“I saw the benefits of a trip like this as a player,” Lessinger said. “To see it from the flip side, as a coach, I know that the benefits for the team will be amazing.”Augustavo agrees that the trip strengthened the bond of a young team.

“I think we created some sort of chemistry on the court, and we really started to connect during our last match in Brazil,” Augustavo said. “Hopefully we will be able to bring that into the season.”