Rising junior Aleksandra Vrvilo, one of the South Atlantic Conference’s top liberos, recently returned from a nine-day trip to Costa Rica organized by Beyond Sports.
The international tour allowed Vrvilo the chance to play against international competition, visit scenic locations throughout the country, and work with underprivileged youths and those with special needs.
Vrvilo’s favorite aspect of the trip was helping to conduct sports clinics with fellow athletes from across the United States and Canada. The group worked with children from an impoverished neighborhood in San Jose, the nation’s capital and largest city, and in a clinic organized by Special Olympics of Costa Rica. The student-athletes engaged participants in icebreaker games before teaching volleyball and basketball.
“It was so touching and rewarding to help these kids out,” she remarked. “At the first clinic we did, one of the boys was autistic, and his mom told us that it was normal for him to cry a lot. By the last day he was giving us kisses. His mom friended me on Facebook and told me that if I ever go back to Costa Rica I have a friend for life there.”
Vrvilo also had the opportunity to play three games against international competition, including the Costa Rican National Team. “The players were very athletic and talented but they don’t have access to the same coaching and training opportunities that we have in America,” she said. Many of the games took place on concrete playing surfaces, which presented a unique challenge for Vrvilo. In addition to being a defensive specialist, a position that often requires her to dive for the ball, Vrvilo realized upon her arrival that she had forgotten to pack her knee pads.
The team had to overcome personnel challenges in its games as well. “Our group didn’t have a setter,” Vrvilo explained, “so we actually played with a Costa Rican setter. That was very interesting. She was able to translate a lot for us and it was fun to see how her skill level compared to ours.”
Included in the trip’s itinerary were opportunities to explore various parts of the Costa Rican landscape. Vrvilo was able to zipline above the rain forest, an experience that she characterized as “scary but fun,” visit an active volcano, and learn to surf on trips to the country’s pristine beaches. She lauded the all-natural juices made from fresh fruit and the diet that included heavy doses of local rice and beans.
Vrvilo proved herself to be among the most talented liberos in the South Atlantic Conference last season. The Beaverton, Oregon native anchored the Brevard defense all season, leading the Southeast Region and ranking 21st nationally with 5.55 digs per set. She finished the regular season second in the South Atlantic Conference with 583 total digs and led the conference in digs and digs per set in league play. She was named SAC Co-Specialist of the Week on November 11 and is second in school history in total digs after just two seasons in royal blue and white.
Vrvilo’s trip was organized through Beyond Sports, an organization that tailors study abroad programs specifically for student-athletes. Trip participants must be issued invitations, which are largely based on statistical rankings and skill level. Many participants Beyond Sports has hosted student-athletes from 140 colleges and universities since its founding in 2010.