By Carter Silane, Contributor
Stepping onto the court this season in a different uniform, sophomore Bella Nascimento has returned to Manhattan College, but this time as a two sport athlete.
Nascimento came to Manhattan College in the 2022-2023 season to play for the women’s basketball team as a guard. This year, with the women’s volleyball team low on players, Nascimento, along with other players on the basketball team, was asked to help out her fellow Jaspers and join them on the volleyball court.
Assistant volleyball coach Sara Atai had the idea to ask head basketball coach Heather Vulin if she had any players interested in and willing to play for the team. Due to a lack of recruitment over the summer and preseason injuries, the volleyball team was down to five players, one player short of the six needed on the court during a match.
Just about everyone on the women’s basketball team offered to step in, resulting in a mini tryout to see which girls they could choose from to lend to the volleyball team.
“It was seven in the mini trial of our team and then four of us got picked,” said Nascimento.
Coming back to school from summer break can be a bit of an adjustment for any college student but being a student-athlete and playing two sports is a handful. But that has not stopped Nascimiento. When she’s not playing at a volleyball match she is at basketball practice, and whenever she isn’t playing either sport she uses that spare time to focus on her school work.
“Every day is long. I mean, with basketball, it’s always been long. But with volleyball, I don’t practice as much because when they’re in their practice time, that’s our lift time. So I just come and play the games and it’s long days, long nights,” Nascimento said.
Other than having more work to manage than last year, Nascimento has also had to adjust to a different on-court pace. In basketball, it is what she calls a “constant up and down,” without much time to cheer each other on.
“Volleyball you can cheer and support your teammates more than you can in basketball,” Nascimiento said.
But with the team welcoming her with open arms it has been an easy adjustment.
“I love playing with them. They’re really nice. They really come in, like even if we mess up since we haven’t played and we’re not used to their system, they teach us the way like they help us with everything even when we’re on the court,” Nascimento said.
Basketball has always been Nascimiento’s passion, but when given this opportunity to play both sports that she loves, she couldn’t pass up the offer.
“I told my mom earlier in the season I was like, I don’t know I just have a passion for volleyball like I do with basketball which is so weird … it’s been like two or three years since I actually played volleyball again,” Nascimento said.
In addition to joining the volleyball team for a portion of their 2022-2023 season, Nascimento has been named ‘Athlete of the Month’ by the Manhattan College Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Nascimento started her volleyball career when she was in high school but has always been surrounded by the sport. Zueylha Lennon, her mother, played volleyball professionally in Brazil.
“When she comes here and when she watches on TV, she’s like turn your hands, get low on defense, be better on that, so she really helps,” Nascimento said.
It is obvious that Nascimento is a very well-rounded player and teammate on both the basketball and volleyball teams. She scored 85 points her freshman year on the basketball team and 40 points this volleyball season.
“Her last year with us was my first year as a JV coach, so I didn’t really know her that well. I do recall that she was a phenomenal player on the volleyball court and a great teammate,” said Nicole Smith, the girls’ varsity volleyball coach at Shepherd Hill Regional High School, where Nascimento attended and played volleyball before coming to Manhattan College.
Unfortunately, the match against Rider University, on Sunday, Sept. 25, was possibly Nascimiento’s last match playing for the volleyball team this season. Both Nascimento and head coach, Mauro Miletic, are hopeful that she will return to play for a couple of their weekend home games.
“I hope we can make her stay. She’s important. Plus she has a lot of heart. She plays hard. It just shows you how all the athletes work together to make Manhattan College better,” Coach Miletic, head coach of the women’s volleyball team, said.
When Nascimento was asked if she would play for the volleyball team again next season if they were to have her, she replied with no hesitation.
“Oh 100 percent,” Nascimiento said. “Why not? I just love volleyball!”
Hopefully, we will be seeing Nascimento on the volleyball court again. But one thing is for sure — fans will see her at the women’s basketball team season opener wearing the number five on Nov. 7 in Draddy Gymnasium.