Ana Beatriz Franklin and Vanja Bukilic traveled long distances to play volleyball at Ohio State.
Franklin’s Brazilian and Bukilic’s Serbian influences have merged their cultures and volleyball techniques among them and their teammates. From the way they drink their coffee to the way they behave on the court, the players had some adjustments to make upon joining Ohio State’s team.
Both Franklin, a junior outside hitter, and Bukilic, a freshman opposite hitter, came from countries that do not offer college volleyball opportunities. It’s volleyball or education. This did not satisfy the desires of the two then-high school students.
“It was really important to me to get a good education,” Franklin said. “I knew I wanted to keep playing volleyball at a really high level and I wanted to get my degree and go to college so coming here to play in the Big Ten was a win-win.”
It was a win-win for the team as well. Franklin leads the team in service aces with 23 this season. Bukilic leads the team in kills with 240.
Both girls had a similar decision to make when it came to leaving their home countries and moving to the United States. It was the same aspect of the team that drew them to this program rather than any other team they were being recruited for: team chemistry.
“I decided to come here right when I visited,” Bukilic said. “There was always a good atmosphere. We were all just hanging out and it was fun being with them. The chemistry and coaches are the main reason I came.”
Head coach Geoff Carlston traveled internationally to welcome both girls to the team and ease their nerves about leaving home to come to Ohio State.
“Once I met the girls and the coaching staff, I knew it was the right place for me,” Franklin said. “Geoff went to Brazil to recruit me and he met my family which meant a lot and once I got here to campus, I just knew.”
Carlston was the only volleyball coach from the United States who went to Brazil during the recruitment process.
FloVolleyball, an international volleyball news organization, ranked Brazil as the No. 1 volleyball country, with the United States ranked No. 2.
Styles of volleyball vary across the world. The basic rules, positions and terminology are consistent, but everything else was an adjustment for Franklin and Bukilic.
“First when I came, it was hard because there is a completely different system for everything,” Bukilic said. “The style of playing is different, it is a faster game here and a lot of substitutions with the front and back row. It was hard at the beginning, but now I just got used to it.”
Franklin noticed a difference in other ways.
“Here, it’s a lot more physical, but at home, it’s a lot more technical,” she said. “I think it made me a better player, having to adapt a lot and change to fit the game here.”
Culturally, Ohio was a whole new world. Aside from the stereotypical cornfields and cows that everyone expects when moving to the Midwest, the girls faced cultural adjustments that took more time getting used to.
“People always bring coffee with them here,” Bukilic said. “At home you sit down, have a cup of coffee, talk with friends; but it’s busy life here and everything is so fast. I like it but sometimes I need to just sit and enjoy the moment.”
Without visas, Bukilic’s family is not able to come to the United States to watch her in action. She mentioned YouTube as a go-to site for her family to watch her play.
Bukilic plans to return to Serbia to play professional volleyball after graduation. Franklin is less certain of her future, both with volleyball and life.
“I really try to stay in the moment and take one day at a time,” Franklin said. “There are a lot of great opportunities here and I would love to stay involved with OSU after graduation, but it’s hard to know. I still have two years left and there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge.”