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Leading by example

As the Bulls battle for a Big East tournament berth, many say they have a special player who can carry them there. That player is junior outside hitter Marcela Gurgel.

Gurgel has made a huge impact on the program and coach Claire Lessinger said she is proud of what she has done.

“Marcela is a player that can do it all,” Lessinger said. “She has the complete package. She has the skill, the knowledge and the competitiveness. She brings leadership to the team and is a great role model for our team to follow.”

Gurgel has played a prominent role in the Bulls’ success this season and throughout her career at USF.

She said her love for the University is what brought her from Fortaleza, Brazil.

“I came for a visit and I really loved the campus and the environment,” Gurgel said. “I really liked the girls and had a past connection with a girl who had played on my club team in Brazil.”

Gurgel began playing volleyball at the age of 7. She joined the BNB Club of Brazil when she was 14 years old. During her five years on the team, she won the Most Valuable Player award every year and led her team to a national championship in 2003 and two third-place finishes in 2002 and 2004.  

At age 16, Gurgel was a member of the Brazilian Junior National Team.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “They taught me a lot and I grew up as a player there. I played libero, but I really wanted to play outside hitter. We traveled to Poland and the Czech Republic, and overall, it was an amazing experience. It’s a great feeling to be able to represent your country.”

In 2006, Gurgel left Brazil to begin her collegiate career at USF.

“Anyone who comes into the collegiate level with international experience is going to allow us to use her not only as an example, but a standard as well,” Lessinger said. “Marcela has been playing for a long time, and there are so many things that come natural to her.”

Gurgel has been exceptional during her three years at USF, collecting multiple awards along the way. She was named to the first-team All Big East in her first two seasons. She was also honorable mention All-American last season and has won several tournament MVPs, including the USF Invitational earlier this season.

Throughout the season, Gurgel has regularly come up with impressive numbers, recording double-digit kills in all but one match this season.

However, Gurgel said this regularity has been difficult to achieve.

“Consistency was one of my problems after my freshmen year,” she said. “I have always wanted to be a consistent player. Working hard has paid off for me, and I have become a smarter player as a result of that.”

Gurgel is third in the nation in aces per set, with an average of 0.66. She tied her career high with seven aces in a victory over the Harvard Crimson earlier this year.

Two of Gurgel’s teammates have been impressed by more than her numbers — they have been impressed with her leadership ability as well.

“Her intensity is amazing and she has been a huge role model for me,” freshman outside hitter Alli O’Connor said. “She has helped me become a better person and player.”

These sentiments were echoed by sophomore right-side hitter Allie Boaz.

“I admire her determination and leadership the most out on the court,” she said. “It really gets me fired up during the games. She has helped me become more competitive.”

Gurgel has many goals for the remainder of the season and hopes the team can accomplish many things — including taking the title of best in the conference.

“I can see us going to the Big East tournament,” Gurgel said. “That is currently the team’s main goal. We have been to the tournament every year since my freshman year and I don’t want to be left out this year. We’re currently playing some of our best volleyball of the year.”

Gurgel said she’s not sure what she wants to do after college. She is considering playing professionally, but wants to weigh all of her options.

“I have plans one day to start working and begin a career,” Gurgel said. “After playing volleyball for 14 years, I don’t know when I’m going to be able to stop.”