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The international language of sports

Italian exchange student plays key role on Ranger volleyball team
by: Loren Nibbe Libero Elena Manovella has been consistently solid for the Rangers this season along the back line, leading the team in digs and placing among the top servers.

Some things just transcend cultures, and for Estacada's Elena Manovella, volleyball is one of them.

Manovella is an exchange student from Italy who also happens to be the starting libero on the Ranger volleyball team that is currently in second place in the Tri-Valley League.

'I just wanted to leave my country so that I could get in touch with other cultures,' Manovella said, 'so when I chose the USA, the program I was selected was in Estacada and it is just as great as I hoped.'

Upon arriving in Estacada as a senior in high school, Manovella was initially overwhelmed by just how far behind she was in her understanding of the English language.

'When I came, I spoke very, very little English because while I took lessons in Italy it was in a very bad way so my first day here was very difficult,' she said.

Fortunately, the transition on the volleyball court has been much easier.

'She brings a competiveness and team spirit that is welcomed in any language,' head coach Shawna Lippert said. 'She has been a joy to coach and my team has responded very well to her.'

Once on the team, her impact was immediate. The Rangers were looking to replace one of their best players from last season who had filled the role of libero and Manovella turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

'It's a lot easier for me to communicate with my teammates because it's just playing without a lot of talking,' Manovella said. 'Little by little I am learning a couple words of English and the volleyball language every day.'

Despite her experience with the sport back in Italy, Manovella learned quickly that the rules are quite different here, especially when it comes to the Libero position.

'In Italy, the libero can only pass the ball but here I can also hit and do a lot of other things that I can't do over there which makes it more fun playing here,' she said.

Off the court, Manovella is still adjusting to life without her parents and family. While other exchange students can relate to the emotions that she is experiencing, she admits that the lonliness of living in a new country sets in from time to time.

'We are all friends and they can comfort me sometimes but these friends are not my family,' she said.

One thing Manovella has been able to find comfort in, however, is winning. The Rangers are currently 9-4 on the season, including a 4-1 record in league play.

Manovella currently leads the team in digs with an average of four per game and is second in both serving percentage (.933) and serves received percentage (.904).