Alyne Bianchi and Clarissa Weber have had similar journeys through life.
Both grew up in the same foreign country and came to the United States to attend the same junior college.
And now both are starring for Dalton State College’s inaugural volleyball team.
Despite losing its first match Tuesday to Southern Wesleyan University, the event began a new era for the Roadrunners. It was the first sports event for Dalton State in three decades, when then-Dalton Junior College halted its men’s basketball, golf and tennis programs.
And Bianchi and Weber are forever connected for being part of that milestone.
Then again, their connections go farther than the Carpet Capital.
Bianchi and Weber are both from Brazil and both went to school in spring 2013 at Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas. Both transferred to Dalton State to be part of the Roadrunners relaunched athletics program and leaders on the volleyball team.
“We emailed a bunch of schools and said we really wanted to go together,” Bianchi said.
Bianchi is from Rio De Janeiro, located along the east coast of the country. Weber is from Noba Petropolis, which is about as far South as Brazil goes. The two became friends in Texas during that one semester, but Bianchi finished her two years at the junior college and was looking for a new school to complete her four-year education. Weber only spent one year at the school and said she needed a change of scenery.
And that’s where Dalton State volleyball coach Bruna Langner — another Brazilian connection — became part of their story.
“Our agent (international study abroad coordinator) told us Bruna was from Brazil and is a coach here. We talked to her and she saw our video and stats online,” Bianchi said. “She said to us, ‘You guys are good players.’”
Trying to start a volleyball program from scratch, Langner was immediately interested in the two.
“The agency that helped them come to the United States is the same one I used to come 10 years ago,” Langner said. “When I was trying to recruit players, I talked to them. Alyne was finishing junior college and needed a place to go, and she and Clarissa became good friends and wanted to keep playing together.”
The two players had an immediate connection to Langner.
“I’m happy because I’m still working on my English and I’m not that good at it,” Weber said. “To have a coach that speaks my language is awesome. We can understand one another and communicate really well.”
Both Bianchi and Weber are 20 years old, and both have been playing the sport since growing up in Brazil.
“It’s the second-biggest sport behind soccer,” Bianchi said, noting the sport doesn’t have nearly as much traction in the United States.
However, that’s all part of a culture change the duo wasn’t quite prepared for.
“We kind of see other sports here, like baseball and football,” Bianchi said. “We had never seen a football game before.”
Said Weber, “Back in Texas, we had a rodeo team. It was completely different.”
On the volleyball court, Langner expects both to be standouts this season and beyond. Bianchi, an outside hitter, is a junior. Weber, one of the main setters, is a freshman. In Tuesday’s loss, Bianchi had a team-high 11 kills. Weber tied fellow setter Michaela Askew for the team lead with eight assists.
“The good thing about Alyne is she’s a good all-around player and can play defense, pass and hit,” Langner said.
“She’s on the court all the time and can bring that to the team. She’s a very good leader and is our captain right now.
“Clarissa is another person who brings a lot of leadership. She’s a very positive player.”
Apparently, Langner has made a positive impression on both Bianchi and Weber. Since they seem to stick together, that’s good for the Roadrunners’ beginning stages of their program’s life journey.
“Coach seemed so excited, saying we’d get a new gym and new everything,” Bianchi said.
“She was so excited talking to us on the phone and said we can help make this happen here. That excitement wore off on us and made us excited.”