Sweet, methodical and intelligent.
Meet Erika Ianovale, a junior volleyball player at N.C Central University with an exceptional background.
Ianovale (pronounced ee-ah-no-VAH-lay), 20, was already becoming an international citizen at a young age. She was born in Milan, Italy, and at the age of five moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Erika was a very athletic child, playing multiple sports including judo, swimming, track and kick-boxing. However, her passion for volleyball didn’t begin until 2010.
“It started as just another sport, but then I liked it more than all the others,” she explains. “I kept moving up (in skill level) until I got to the best team in my city for my age.”
It wasn’t until she was nearing the end of her high school career that Ianovale’s mother gave her the idea of going to the United States to further both her education and volleyball career.
Like many international athletes looking to study abroad, she compiled videos of her playing to send to coaches all over the United States. From there, she waited for the best offer before making a final decision.
Her first school was not her final one, however: Erika spent both her freshman and sophomore years in Florida, but at a different junior college (Florida State College at Jacksonville and State College of Florida, Manatee–Sarasota, respectively) for each one.
“I originally only came from Brazil for the experience, but I ended up liking it here,” Ianovale says of why she spent such a short period of time at each school. “Since they were going to cancel the program at Jacksonville, I needed to find another junior college.”
The next step in Erika’s journey was NCCU.
“Central offered me the best scholarship opportunity,” she says. “But the most important factor for me was that when I came for the official visit (in March 2017), the girls on the volleyball team were super nice to me.”
She remembers how excited she was to make the transition from junior colleges to a Division I university and further her education at a school where she could advance in her major of Mass Communication.
After graduation, Erika hopes to stay in the U.S. and start her career as either a communication director or in internal communications for a multinational corporation. She says that her experiences in different countries and being able to speak four languages—Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and English—will help her succeed.
“Academically, she’s a very hard worker and extremely intelligent,” freshman outside hitter Christine Alcox says.
“The university is bigger with way more support,” Ianovale says. “The ability to take more and different classes is better than here than at junior colleges.”
Ianovale has played in 23 matches for the Eagles and started in all but two of them. It may only be her first season, but she has an impressive season high of nine kills twice and 11 defensive digs on three separate occasions.
Volleyball head coach Jody Brown describes Erika as a “very diverse player.”
“She is truly efficient at any position we (coaching staff) put her in,” Brown says. “Erika is very intelligent and methodical.”
There is a common theme in opinions about Erika Ianovale: she is a standout volleyball player, but an even better person.
“She is always willing to help others,” Brown says. “Erika is a teammate you want to have.”
Lady Eagles volleyball will be making their second consecutive appearance in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Volleyball Championship Tournament beginning with a quarterfinals match against host University of Maryland Eastern Shore on Friday, Nov. 17, at 1 p.m.