A Puerto Rican volleyball team made its way to the City of Firsts earlier this month to join the IU Kokomo Cougars on a Hoosier court.
The team, dubbed Borinquen Coquí, spent the day at IUK touring the campus, visiting with the university’s admissions and financial aid departments, meeting with professors, and scrimmaging in the Cougar Gym. For most of the players, it was their first time in the United States, according to Heather Hayes, head volleyball coach at IUK, who credited the team’s manager, Steven Fenosik, for making the trip happen.
“For almost all of them, it was their first time in the United States. [Fenosik] provides them an opportunity of a lifetime to come to the United States to play volleyball, see college campuses, and help them reach their dream of playing in the United States. I am glad we were able to be a part of providing them this experience,” said Hayes.
Fenosik has brought Puerto Rican teams to the United States for approximately 10 years. This year, the team also visited University of Indianapolis, Indiana Wesleyan University, and Marian University Indianapolis.
While touring IUK, Hayes said the students were impressed with the facility.
“One of the Puerto Rican players’ older brother, a college student in Puerto Rico, came along for the visit,” Hayes said. “When asked how the different countries’ college campuses compared, he stated, ‘resources.’ He said during the IUK tour that the guide began walking backwards while leading them, and in Puerto Rico, no one at any university could do that in fear of tripping over infrastructure.”
Men’s and women’s volleyball is popular in Puerto Rico, much more than it is in the United States, according to Hayes. Interestingly, in Puerto Rico, the game rule is that a team can only make six substitutions per set, unlike the United States’ rule of 12 substitutions per set. Therefore, the players on Borinquen Coquí were better-rounded in all positions.
The United States Association of Volleyball (USAV) National Championships was hosted in Indianapolis this year, from June 26 to July 4. While here, Borinquen Coquí competed in the USAV National Championship and placed fifth out of 62 teams.
“They were a really young team with a couple players even being only 14 years old,” Hayes said. “Their ball control and defense were very solid, which is a trademark of Puerto Rican teams typically. This was great for us to play against. They also showed such a love and passion for the game, and that is good for our players to see.”
Borinquen Coquí invited the Cougars to Puerto Rico to participate in mission work and play local Puerto Rican university teams, as well as some local club teams. Fenosik said teams from the United States often spend a week there and do this.
“This day would not have been possible without the help of our entire campus,” Hayes said. “From our admissions team, financial aid team, and professors, there were a lot of people who worked to make this a great experience for the players, coaches, and parents.”