Nov. 15, 2011
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—Junior libero Izzy Gaulia is easy to distinguish on the court. She stands at 5-7—one of the smallest on the team—her position causes her to wear a different colored uniform and the energy she brings to the team and crowd is immeasurable.
But standing out is nothing new for Gaulia.
Born in Brazil, Gaulia spent the first 10 years of her life in her native country. She credits her outgoing personality to her Brazilian roots.
“People are very friendly and laid back there,” she said. “Compared to Americans, our culture is very, very outgoing.”
But while they are more outgoing, the locals of Rio de Janeiro also live in much worse conditions.
“I definitely grew up with a lot less than children here,” Gaulia said. “I guess one way to describe it is Christmas. We wouldn’t get a whole bunch of presents; we’d get maybe one or two.”
Rio has been ranked by many publications over the years as one of the most dangerous places in the world to live. And while Gaulia confirmed the unsafe conditions, it didn’t deter her from happiness.
“None of that changed who I was,” she said. “I was still a happy child growing up.”
Gaulia moved from Brazil when she was 10, when her mom remarried and her stepdad got a job in Phoenix, Ariz. Although her dad, extended family and newly born half-sister still live in Brazil, she hasn’t been back since she left more than a decade ago.
“I definitely miss my family,” Gaulia said. “I miss the place. I love the beach, and from where I grew up I could walk five minutes from my house and I’d be at the beach. It was a fun place to live; dangerous, but fun.”
While Brazil is known to many as the volleyball capital of the world, Gaulia, surprisingly, didn’t begin playing the sport until after she left.
“They don’t have organized sports like they do in the States,” she said. “The times you play sports are in PE class.”
Club volleyball in Brazil, Gaulia explained, is very expensive.
“If I still lived in Brazil I probably would never have played volleyball.”
But after moving to Arizona, Gaulia began playing basketball and volleyball, and shortly after gave up hoops to focus on volleyball.
The new sport was fun, but the transition to life in America was hard for Gaulia, who didn’t speak English.
“I was the quietest person,” she said. “I didn’t say a word. I didn’t know English, so I was starting from scratch. I was really afraid of making mistakes while speaking, and it’s just really hard when you can’t communicate with everybody.
“I was really sad for a long time. I missed Brazil and didn’t have a lot of friends. I left everything there, and was really introverted.”
It didn’t help that Gaulia was bullied by a girl at school in seventh grade, but in result, Gaulia learned about who she was.
“I got bullied for no reason,” she said. “I wasn’t used to that, so it really took me back. Since then, I really grew into my own. I don’t take anything from anyone, and I think it’s because of that. I do what I want to do and be who I want to be, and have more fun being that way.”
As Gaulia grew accustomed to living in America, she also grew more as a volleyball player and began thinking about playing collegiately, specifically at the University of Arizona.
“I was very nervous during the recruiting process,” she explained. “I wasn’t getting a whole lot of looks, and for the longest time was planning on going to U of A.”
So certain, in fact, that she told the CSU coaching staff she would be playing for the Wildcats because she didn’t have the money to come to CSU.
“They told me to hold up and not to make any decisions yet,” she said. “They found me a scholarship and there was no way I was going to turn that down.”
Gaulia admits that she came to Fort Collins solely for the volleyball. She hates snow and says the city is smaller than her ideal preference.
Like she has everywhere else, though, Gaulia has grown into her own skin. Entering the Mountain West championship tournament, Gaulia has started every set for CSU and leads the team with 4.46 digs per set, and is fourth with 18 service aces. Add that to the fact that Gaulia is the team’s vocal leader and energizer, and you have a pretty solid player.
“Sometimes I’m a bit much, but that’s just how I am,” she said. “I can’t control it. I like attention. As much as people say that’s bad to be the center of attention, I enjoy it. Not in a bad way, but I love making people laugh and being friends with people. I love being in the middle of things.”
As for her dramatic post-point celebrations: “I’ve always been like that,” she said. “In high school I got to hit, so it was a lot easier to show emotion. Now, I don’t end rallies, I start them. I like to show my emotion and give my team momentum and pump everyone up.”