Soares reaches new heights in second season

Sophomore Natalia Soares has had to go through a different than most players coming to college.

The Brazilian native came to USF specifically to play volleyball and study at the university level. Naturally, moving to a different country can be difficult on its own, but Soares also had to adjust to the college sports and academic lifestyle.

“It was hard in the beginning, but I love America. I love everyone here,” Soares said. “They’re welcoming and they made it really easy.”

Soares used her freshman year at USF to get familiar with her surroundings and learn the language, as well as learn the Bulls’ style of play.

Coach Courtney Draper was there for Soares’ transition into college sports and she is impressed at how the sophomore setter has handled it.

“I think it was a little bit of a struggle early in her freshman year,” Draper said. “She overcame it pretty quickly.”

Soares is quickly turning into one of the leaders on a young Bulls squad featuring seven freshmen.

This weekend, despite a poor result from the team, Soares recorded a career high in digs against Northern Colorado, with 19.

Recording almost 20 digs is a sign that Soares’ defense is improving and is perhaps the biggest part of her game that has improved over the past year, Draper said.

“The biggest area she’s grown in is her defensive game,” Draper said. “It wasn’t bad before, but she didn’t have a special focus in that area.”

Time will tell if her on-court improvement will translate to more wins for the Bulls. This weekend, the Bulls are hoping Soares can have more career-best games to help them get back to a winning record.

This weekend will feature the Bulls at home at the USF Invitational, starting with the University of Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. The series will also feature Florida Atlantic University and Purdue University.