Never before has Paulina Prieto Cerame been tested this way. For the first time in her non-international volleyball career, she is on the bench cheering on her teammates, instead of on the floor.
Sidelined by a left lower leg injury, the freshman outside hitter is forced to watch the No. 1 Nittany Lions (16-1, 6-0 Big Ten) play without her. But just because she can’t be on the court contributing for the Lions, that doesn’t mean she is not involved with the team.
Prieto Cerame is determined to assist her team in whatever way that she can, even from her scooter. Whether she is encouraging her teammates, yelling where to pass the ball, or wheeling around and snagging loose balls during practice, she wants to help wherever she can.
Despite her injury, coach Russ Rose is pleased with Prieto Cerame’s assertiveness to stay actively involved with the squad –– something that not all injured athletes do.
“I think she’s got a pretty good energy,” Rose said. “I think she’s got a good volleyball IQ and it’s good she’s staying immersed in the team because a lot of time kids that have injuries get withdrawn and kind of go in a different direction.”
A three-year team captain at Palmer Trinity School in Miami, Fla., Prieto Cerame helped her squad to the Miami Dade District 16 Championship for five straight seasons. In 2008, she helped her team make the Regional Championships.
Her talents in high school did not go unnoticed, as she was selected to the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team that competed at the 2011 FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championship.
Now she is learning more about herself and the game of volleyball because she can see things from a different perspective. It’s something that she hopes will make her better in the long run.
“It’s learning that I have other gifts, not just like my playing. I can affect the team with my speaking and also I see a lot in them,” Prieto Cerame said. “In that way it’s a positive, so I’ve been just trying to help the other people in my position just telling them like this shot is open or just pumping them up and telling them to be aggressive. You definitely see a lot more things when you’re outside on the bench.”
There is no timetable for Prieto Cerame’s return, who coming into college was ranked No. 7 in her class according to Prepvolleyball.com. But the 6-foot-2 outside hitter is itching to step back onto the court and start playing again.
“I’m very eager. I’ve been here since January, so I was imagining myself playing at this time and it was a big downer finding out that I can’t play,” she said. “I’m very excited to see when I can come back.”
Until then, the two-time Miami Herald Player of the Year will have to watch and wait. For now she will continue to assist her team in anyway possibly.
“She talks during practice, she’s trying to be positive as much as she can, she’s giving us feedback making us better,” sophomore setter Micha Hancock said. “She’s really doing everything that she can.”