Girls Volleyball: Italian exchange student Ilaria Prata joins Oak Park

Story Image OPRF girls volleyball player Ilaria Prata, a foreign exchange student from Milan, Italy.

Updated: October 8, 2012 6:39PM

It’s safe to say Ilaria Prata was a last-minute edition to Oak Park-River Forest’s girls volleyball team.

Tryouts are usually held over the course of three days once preseason practice begins Aug. 8. In Prata’s case, she was able to attend only one day of tryouts.

She made enough of an impression on coach Don August to make the team.

Prata had a good reason for her delayed tryout. As a foreign exchange student, Prata wasn’t even in the country when tryouts began weeks before the school year was scheduled to start.

“I tried out the day after I got here,” Prata said.

Prata is a senior from Milan, Italy, and played volleyball regularly for a club team in her home country.

“I will be here two months [this] week,” Prata said. “We just have club [in Italy]. There is no school volleyball during the season. In club, you can play all day long.”

Prata is a middle hitter in Italy, but the Huskies (13-10, 2-2 West Suburban Silver) seem set at that position with experienced juniors Kiley Nelson and Symone Speech.

When asked what her height is, Prata didn’t know in English measurement. She responded in metric: 175 centimeters. That conversion is 5-foot-9.

Prata did not begin starting for OPRF until late September when she began playing the unfamiliar position of right-side hitter.

“I’m not used to playing there,” Prata said. “I like right-side hitter better if you get to block other people.”

The position has been a revolving door for August, who has tried four other players at right-side hitter before giving Prata a shot.

The decision worked out pretty well Oct. 2 as Prata had seven kills, but the Huskies lost at West Suburban Silver rival Hinsdale Central 27-25, 19-25, 25-19.

Prata and Kiley Nelson had seven kills each to trail team leader Allie Nelson, who had nine in the match.

OPRF fell behind 14-5 in the third set and could not rally despite coming within two points. Prata didn’t have a kill in the third set and the Nelson sisters combined for only four kills.

“We do not have consistency,” August said. “We need some production from the right-side spot. For a foreign-exchange student, [Prata] has some skills. Our problem has been getting consistency over there. We need to get more good swings.”

To help with the adjustment to life in the United States, Prata has relied on her volleyball teammates during the season.

“They help you pretty much,” Prata said.

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