Camilla Ossola came to Silver Lake from Italy to spend a year as a foreign student.
And that year, she rediscovered her passion for volleyball. Ossola will remain in the United States to pursue his academic and athletic career at Johnson County Community College.
Ossola helped Silver Lake to a 28-9 record with a team-high 223 eliminations and 62 blocks. She won First Team Middle East League honours.
“I had no idea where Kansas was”
Ossola grew up in northern Italy. She wanted to come to the United States to study since college.
She had been to the United States twice with her family before coming to Silver Lake, once to Florida, and New York and Washington, DC, on her other trip. She didn’t know Kansas so well.
“I had no idea where Kansas was,” Ossola said. “(I didn’t know) anything at all. I didn’t even know it was an American state.”
Ossola arrived last July a week or two before the start of fall classes at Silver Lake. She felt welcome from the start.
Adapting to the school workload – and even new teammates on the volleyball team – wasn’t as difficult as the rules.
“I grew up without a lot of rules here,” Ossola said in a Zoom call last week from Italy. “I can do pretty much anything I want. I have a lot of freedom. When I came there, as an exchange student and as a teenager in high school, they had a lot of rules and I had no idea.
“They have a curfew. I’ve never had a curfew in my life, and it was so weird. Like being home at 9 p.m., I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m leaving at 9 p.m. here.”
Camilla Ossola rediscovers her passion for volleyball
This was Ossola’s sixth year playing volleyball. She did not know how her skills would transfer to the United States. Italy doesn’t have school teams, just club teams.
The structure there didn’t make her enjoy the game as much, but she decided to give it a shot at Silver Lake.
“If you’re good there, you just play on the best team, kind of like the college team,” Ossola said. “I hated volleyball so much. When I got to (Silver Lake) I was like, ‘Oh my god, please don’t make me play volleyball anymore’, and then when I started playing, everyone had fun.”
Beyond her first meeting with Ossola shortly before the start of the season, Silver Lake coach Sarah Johnson’s first impressions of her on the pitch have been positive.
“I immediately saw an athleticism in her,” Johnson said. “She had decent vertical and phenomenal arm swing. She also had a pretty high volleyball IQ.”
Johnson was installing a new system she hadn’t used in the past that involved training two new passers. Training them and adding a new member to the team was an adjustment that took time and communication.
“A period when Camilla really took off, I remember the Rossville tournament,” Johnson said. “We had her in the middle. I saw her hitting off duty and receiving on the right side, on the left side, and I was like, ‘God, she’s a threat no matter where she is in the first rank “”
One of those new smugglers was McKinley Kruger, who met Ossola before the start of the year when she showed up at registration.
“At first it was difficult,” Kruger said. “It took us a while to get on the same page, just volleyball and communication. I had to get used to words she didn’t really understand or terms she didn’t really understand.”
But even before the start of volleyball practices, Kruger knew that Ossola could play an important role in the team.
“A few of us were going to the sand volleyball courts and having fun,” Kruger said. “I picked her to be on my team this time around, and she was absolutely hitting the ball out of the sand. It’s hard to get up and jump that high in the sand and I was like, ‘Yeah, this girl is going to be good.'”
Playing volleyball in the United States was different
Ossola said teamwork and relationships stood out. In Italy, she said squad members would change every six months or so and players were more worried about themselves on the pitch.
“Here in high school, you probably know the same people from elementary school and then you grew up with these people,” Ossola said. “Everyone knows each other and they know everything about each other, and I love that so much.”
Ossola is shy by nature, calmer, reserved and focused on the court. Johnson told her she should reverse this trend.
“She was right,” Ossola said. “Everyone was always talking and shouting. It helped me so much to get out of my comfort zone and not be shy around people in general, not just sports. While I was playing volleyball in Italy , I was always angry. If something went wrong, I was angry and blamed myself for everything and that was not healthy.
“When I came to the States, everything was fun. Nobody was saying, ‘You did something wrong. I’m not going to talk to you,” it was like, “No, I’m fine. I will do it next time.’ It’s so much better.”
With her talent on display from the start, everyone from her foster family, Megan and Cody Johnson, to her new friends in Silver Lake, encouraged her to apply to American schools to see if she might be able to. continue his sporting career.
“I just think his willingness to adapt, especially for me as a new setter,” Kruger said of what sets Ossola apart on the volleyball court. “I know it was probably hard for her to adjust to me because I had never defined my life. She’s just a really good teammate.
“If I gave her a bad set, she’d be like, ‘Oh, no, that’s okay. You will have the following. “She’s also a hard worker, and she’ll be ready for the next level.”
Shortly after the start of the season, Ossola told Johnson that she wanted to extend her playing career.
“It was like two weeks into the season. She told me she wanted to stay in the United States and she wanted to look for a volleyball scholarship somewhere and play volleyball here,” said Johnson. “It was kind of always on our radar.”
Find a match with Johnson County Community College Volleyball
Ossola was still in contact with his club coach at home and secured help from Johnson, who helped build a profile for Ossola at pitch level. This helps potential athletes pass on their information to college coaches.
Johnson also helped create opportunities for Ossola with his connections in sports and the state.
Ossola went to a practice at Washburn University and in February spent time at Johnson’s alma mater, JCCC.
Ossola said she was afraid to play with college players at first, but gained confidence after taking the field with them and practicing well.
“I didn’t feel like I was good enough to play there, but actually it was great,” Ossola said. “I know everything is faster. Everything is just more (intense) than in high school, but I love playing like that.”
Ossola secured a scholarship offer and signed her letter of intent on April 20.
“I felt like something no one made me feel while I was in Italy,” Ossola said. “When you get a scholarship, you feel good. You’re going to be part of something bigger than what you were used to.
“When I got there, I loved Johnson County so much I was like, ‘I don’t want to see any other colleges or I don’t want to hear any other offers, I just want to go.’ “
Journey to Johnson County Community College had some issues
With the cost of college in the United States, her parents initially refused to attend the JCCC.
“The other thing is they were really scared to let me go at 18,” Ossola said. “They were just afraid to let their daughter go to the United States. I think that was the biggest problem.
“To be honest, 20% of my mind was like, ‘They’re right,’ but the other 80% was like, ‘Damn, I want to go to college here. Why won’t they let me go?'”
Two weeks later, Ossola’s parents gave their blessing.
“I literally started crying,” Ossola said. “Like, you can’t be serious. You can’t call me after two weeks and tell me you can stay.”
That’s not to say Ossola didn’t have his own reservations about staying in the United States.
Would his friendships stay? Would she be tired of volleyball in two years?
And what about being so far from home?
“I understand that a lot of students travel across the country to go to college,” Ossola said. “But I mean, you can get on a plane, and in four hours you can be there. I have to do a 20 hour trip.”
Ossola returned home to visit his family. She was supposed to have arrived on July 26 but had to get vaccinated and wait out the 14-day period. She will be back on August 9.
“I’m so excited. I’m dying to be here playing volleyball right now,” Ossola said. “I just want to get there as soon as possible. I can’t wait.”
Contact Seth Kinker at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SethKinker.