Brazilian volleyball expert fitting in at U

By Paige Fieldsted, Staff Writer

Cinthia Silva’s volleyball career began over a decade ago when her mom introduced her to the sport. Little did Cinthia know, volleyball would take her more than 6,000 miles from home.

Silva (her first name pronounced SIN-cha), a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, came to Utah a little more than two years ago to play for Salt Lake Community College.

Silva wasn’t recruited like a typical college athlete. In fact, she wasn’t really recruited at all.

“Whenever we have a Brazilian on the team, they help us look for another player,” said Joe Hillman, SLCC assistant volleyball coach. “That’s how we got Cinthia.”

Silva had an “All-American” start to her college career at SLCC, where she led the South West Athletic Conference in kills as a freshman and a sophomore. She also helped her team place third at the national tournament.

Although it appears Silva had instant success in the United States, her transition wasn’t easy.

“It was hard in the beginning,” Silva said. “I didn’t know any English and I was a long way from home.”

In addition to learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture, Silva also had to learn a new style of volleyball.

Hillman said the difference between U.S. and Brazilian volleyball made things difficult at first.

“We had to explain everything we were doing, which was problematic at times,” he said. “But Cinthia was smart and she wanted to learn and understand our system, which was great.”

Despite the struggles of adjusting to a new culture and a new style of volleyball, Silva said she enjoyed the challenge.

“It was really fun, everything around me was new,” she said. “My teammates really helped me adjust.”

Just when Silva was situated with her new environment, she faced another challenge8212;Division-I volleyball.

Silva had to learn an entirely new system, adjust to the faster paced Division-I level and get to know a whole new team all at once.

“I think it was a little overwhelming for her at first,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “She had to learn the pace of games and practice, but she’s done a good job and is working really hard.”

Silva said her teammates here at the U have been really helpful in making her feel welcome and helping her learn the ropes.

“I’ve been kind of lost with what’s going on,” Silva said. “They are always talking to me and telling me things and helping me get used to the team.”

Silva has adjusted well to the system and has had a lot of success in the first part of the season.

She had one of the highest hitting percentages on the team in her first match and earned her first career double-double as a Ute in her second.

“She has filled a need for us,” Launiere said. “She is very athletic and very competitive.”

Silva continues to be a force for Utah on both offense and defense, averaging two kills and two digs per set.

Following in the footsteps of outside hitter Kathryn Haynie has been one of the biggest advantages for Silva when it comes to adjusting her game.

“It’s been cool to work with her,” Haynie said. “She asks me a lot of questions and we help each other out. I try to remind her of the little things that we do differently from what she’s done before.”

Watching the team play, you would never know that Silva joined the team only four months ago.

Her teammates agree that her competitive spirit and fun personality make a great addition to the team.

“She is very competitive and makes you want to play better,” said middle blocker Emillie Toone. “She has a lot of fire which fits in with our team.”

Even though Silva has been challenged on the volleyball front ever since she arrived in the states, she said her biggest challenge is not having her family close.

Silva left her parents and brother behind in Sao Paulo when she came to Salt Lake City.

“My family was really close and it’s hard not to see them everyday,” Silva said. “I miss them all the time and still get homesick.”

Silva usually goes home every six months to visit her family, but was unable to go this summer because she was in the middle of transferring to the U.

Technology has helped as Silva has been able to see her family via Webcam. Silva also said her teammates have really helped her when it comes to missing her family.

“We really try to make her feel welcome,” Toone said. “She is a long ways from home and we want to be a family for her.”

Despite the challenges of moving to another country, Silva said she has learned a lot that will help her later in life and she has made friendships that will last forever.

“Every day I learn something new,” Silva said. “Something that will help me go forward and be a better person.”

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Erik Daenitz

Cinthia Silva?s volleyball career started 6,000 miles off of the U campus in Sao Paulo Brazil. Silva played two years at SLCC before transferring to the U.

Erik Daenitz