By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
She may be approximately 4,300 miles from her home in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, but Lorena De Oliviera is finding herself right at home on the volleyball court.
Windham’s 6-foot foreign-exchange student joined the school’s volleyball team in late August and provided an already talented Bombers team with a skillset that was immediately ready to contribute.
“She is an awesome player. We saw it right away. At her first practice, it was easy to see,” Windham junior Quinn Justham said.
Oliviera is a senior and is staying with Dougle and Leighann Hankins, who have housed several foreign-exchange students in recent years.
Like Justham and her teammates, it did not take long for Bombers head coach Lauren Gintert and assistant Michael Chaffee to realize that Oliviera was talented.
“She arrived very prepared to play,” Gintert said. “Her skills were already at a high enough level to compete for, then earn a varsity starting position.”
In her first game with the Bombers, Oliviera totaled 22 points and 10 aces in a four-set victory over Southington Chalker.
She followed up the effort with another spectacular one, totaling 17 points, seven aces and 14 kills in a four-set triumph over Bristol.
For the season, Oliviera is averaging 16 points, six aces and 13 kills per game for the Bombers, who are 8-2 in Northeastern Athletic Conference play and determined to challenge for the league championship.
“Lorena has an innate drive to be excellent,” Gintert said. “She’s completely a self-motivator, which is exactly what a coach loves to see in a young athlete. It’s an inspiration to her teammates to watch her come into an entirely unfamiliar situation and not only not allow herself to be defeated by it, but actually embrace the challenges that come with it.”
Oliviera’s new teammates have not only been inspired by her play, but have also welcomed her into the school and community.
“In her own words, Lorena has said that she ‘feels like everyone is very welcoming,’ which has been encouraging to hear,” Gintert said. “It’s clear that the other players have really enjoyed having her as a teammate and a friend. It has been great to watch them communicate and learn about each other’s cultures.”
Outside of a few synonym mix-ups, there has been very little in regards to a language barrier between Oliviera and her Bombers teammates and classmates.
“Lorena is one of the more fluent English speaking foreign-exchange students we’ve had,” Gintert admitted.
Gintert added that Oliviera’s biggest adjustment has actually been with the compacted schedule of events.
“It is the biggest barrier she has faced — just adjusting to the practice and competition schedule differences between the United States and Brazil,” Gintert said. “She seems to actually enjoy it, though, and has thrived with the more intense and compact schedule we have.”
All while the Bombers’ opponents get a front-row seat to the domination.