ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Fernanda Reis is not sure about her short-term future, but she does know there are choices.
The Eckerd College volleyball senior, born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, moved to Florida in 2016 with a sports scholarship to follow in her mother and sister’s footsteps – the former at Louisiana State University, and the latter here with the Tritons.
Three months shy of her graduation date, Reis’ future could be in either South or North America.
“It’s hard to leave because I’ve applied much time and energy in this place, and I love these people. It’s my home,” she said in Portuguese before a training session at Eckerd. “It’s hard to step into the unknown, but at the same time, it feels like I’m ready.
“These four years got me ready to go into real life.”
Stay or go is not a problem for her, but Reis has a preference.
“If I were to choose, I would stay because I love it here. I’d like to go to grad-school and extend my résumé.”
Her sister was part of the team for her first two years in St. Petersburg, before she graduated in Ambiental Studies (environment) and moved to Louisiana. After that, the both court and beach volleyball player was on her own and had to rely on her teammates and coaches.
“Having this team as my family and getting through all these challenges and struggles with them was what I learned the most,” she said. “Really being able to adapt and embrace this new culture as mine.
“I’ve missed my family, my house, my culture. It gets to a point that is really exhausting. It’s very challenging when you want to be there for your family and you can’t.”
In court volleyball, Reis played 21 games in her freshman year, ranking second on the team with a 3.98 assists average per set. She became the leader in the stat the following season, when she played all 39 matches and 110 sets, providing 1,106 assists. She was also the assist leader in her junior year, playing 22 matches and averaging 8.85 per set.
On the sand, Reis finished her first season 5-6, pairing with Kati Arnette. She went 4-2 with Arielle Erillo in her sophomore year, recording a 6-9 with Margot Bailiet as a junior.
Homesickness made it all a bit harder.
“You invest a lot of your energy, mental and physical, in sports,” she said. “There are ups and downs. Sometimes you’re peaking, and other times you have to deal with it. Doing this away from home it’s hard because I always used to have my mom for that.
“But it also taught me a lot, like how to trust people and give myself into relationships.”
Reis is not only from a volleyball family, she’s also from one of the most successful countries in the sport in both men’s and women’s, on the court and beach.
“Everybody tells me `Wow, you’re from Brazil’, because people who know volleyball know the importance of the sport there and how much of a beautiful story we have. “People here also understand how difficult it is for a country like Brazil, who does not have enough investment in sports, to have such excellent athletes. For us to have many great names, it makes me proud.”