UWF's Luciana Rapach Named to the AVCA Volleyball All-American Team
Dec. 7, 2007
PENSACOLA, Fla. - When the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) announced the 27th annual AVCA All-America teams for NCAA Division II women's volleyball, West Florida's Luciana Rapach was the only Gulf South conference player to achieve All-American status. The junior from Porto Alegre, Brazil, took the conference by storm in her first season in the league, winning Defensive Player of the Week honors on three occasions, and was named as the East Division Player of the year.
The Argos right side hitter pushed West Florida to its second consecutive NCAA Regional berth, and she is the first West Florida Volleyball player ever to be named to the All-American team. She was an integral part of the first 30 win season in West Florida history. The talented Rapach was a complete player, performing all over the court for West Florida this year. She ranked in the top three on her team in several categories, including digs (429) and hitting percentage (.301).
Head Coach Melissa Wolter was proud of her first and UWF's first Volleyball All-American, "I am very happy for Luciana and for our program, as Luciana represents our first AVCA All-American. She, along with all of our players, worked very hard to accomplish all that we did this season. Luciana is definitely deserving of such an honor."
Rapach was also a first team All-Region selection, while teammate Isabela Gualberto was named honorable mention All-Region. Rapach was the Gulf South Conference Player of the year, while teammates Madeline Gonzalez, Gualberto, and Kimberly Clark were also named to the All-Conference first and second teams. The Argos went 12-0 in the conference in the regular season, and finished second in the conference tournament to West Georgia.
From a large port city in the south of Brazil to Council Bluffs, Iowa to Pensacola, Florida, Luciana Rapach has traveled much in her young age. Rapach, a junior transfer has seen many lands in her 23 years. "Growing up and going to school in Brazil is a lot different than in the United States" says Luciana. She made her way to Iowa Western Community College through a recruiting agency in Brazil. "I did not speak English and I did not know what my new coach looked like", said Rapach. When she arrived at the airport in Iowa, her coach and assistant coach were there with a big sign with Luciana's name on it. She told me the coach kept saying "is that her, could this be her, that can't be her" as all these small, dark-haired, dark-skinned women walked off the plane. Then, when he saw `Lu', he broke into a laugh when he realized she was 5'9", blonde, and had freckles. Women from southern Brazil are lighter skinned and have lighter colored hair.
Even the coach did not know what to expect. What he found after that initial meeting was even more astonishing. Knowing `Lu' did not speak English, she was singing to a song on the radio, in English. He wondered what was happening, and she said this was one of her favorite songs, and it is played in Brazil in English. She can't speak the language, but can sing a song in English. That was the strange beginning to a successful transition for an articulate and sensitive young lady into the culture of America.
Warming up to Iowa was easier said than done. Cold winters and tornadoes being a constant threat seemed to be on Luciana's mind. However, the reason she was there in the first place was to play volleyball. And wow, did she ever. After a stellar freshman season, Rapach really brought IWCC's game to life. In 2006, IWCC was crowned NJCAA DI National Champion and Lu was named tournament MVP, 1st team All-American, and Academic All-Region. This would eventually lead her to the doorsteps of Coach Melissa Wolter at UWF.
With the help of a former player, Wolter found out about Luciana. Marcela Cunha, a UWF volleyball player from 2005-2006, knew Luciana from playing against her in Brazilian youth leagues. She told Coach Wolter to try and get Rapach. It worked, Lu knew she would play Division II, she just didn't know where. She wanted to play in the warm weather and she knew the coach at the University of West Alabama, but when she saw UWF, she knew this was the place for her. Luciana wants to play pro beach volleyball after college and can use the natural surroundings here to further that dream. At UWF, Rapach is studying Sports Management and hopes to use this degree to `do anything I can in sports'.
When I asked Coach Wolter about Luciana, she was very candid. She explained that Lu is a leader and is well admired by all her teammates. Although soft spoken, Luciana leads by example and her fellow players feed off that example. Coach Wolter told me the special thing about Lu is 90% of the team emulate her. They want to play and be as successful as her. This makes the team stronger and harder to defeat. Another quality of Rapach is her confident aggression. She is confident enough to let it all out when she needs to, and be laid back when she needs. This reminds me of a lion on the hunt, just waiting for the opportune time to strike and then, with the ferocity of the king of the beasts, attacks.
During this season, Luciana has played as the coaches and other players expected. Luciana is ranked 2nd on the team in games played, 3rd in kills per game, 2nd in attack percentage, 2nd in assists, 4th in aces, 2nd in digs per game and 4th in blocks. She was named Gulf South Conference defensive player of the week 3 times, and was awarded the Gulf South Conference East Division Player of the Year. With all these accolades, she also gained 3rd team All America selection. The latter two awards were the first such awards for UWF Volleyball.
Luciana is a humble, thoughtful and sensitive individual. When I asked her to tell me something special about herself, she stammered and stumbled for an answer. I pressed her and she said, "I relate well to people, I try to get the best out of everything I do. I seek happiness". I also asked what she thought she might be doing in 10 years. "Well," she said, "I want to try beach volleyball. That is a passion of mine, and I want to give it a try." She is also studying to possibly become a sports agent or "something in athletics". I asked what is in her I-pod and she said, "All kinds, the only one I don't have is country". She likes rock, pop, blues and some classical. When it comes to movies she said "NO SCARY MOVIES, I don't like scary movies". She is more in tune with romantic and romantic comedies. Her home life was like anyone else's. Father Edemar, an architect, and mother Maragarete, a psychiatrist, raised Lu and her two sisters; Natalia and Ana Paula to become something. Do not settle. Make something of yourself and you will be happy. Luciana has taken this advice to heart and is doing her part to become just that.
After talking with Luciana for a short time, I can see why everyone speaks so highly of her. She is engaging and has a fantastic grip on this language. She has come a long way since that meeting with her new coach in Iowa. She will continue to grow and I feel she has the ability to do whatever she wants, with no exceptions.
Ron Burt contributed to this article with his interview of Rapach.