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Read the full article on Margherita Marconi’s triumph in the NAIA, written by Valentino Cristofalo for Il Supporter.

Probably the first Italian to win the NAIA 2018 – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics title, therefore the national title at the college level. Let’s say probably, we are quite sure of it having “combed” through the various titles of the past but you never know. However, a success story, an example to follow, talking about a very young girl, originally from Jesi who decided to go to the United States, supported by the path offered by Sportlinx360, without any fear, studying Business Administration at Park University (Parkville – Missouri) and gaining the national volleyball title with the Pirates.

We at the were lucky enough to interview MARGHERITA MARCONI, to tell the emotions of those who managed to make their dream come true with strength, determination and perseverance.

Let’s start with a blunt and direct question, what does it feel like to win such an important national title as that of the NAIA?

“Ever since August, the team had set itself the goal of getting to that final on December 1 and until the referee blew the whistle to end that game I didn’t realise how important what we were doing was. Everything we had dreamed of since the beginning of the season had come true. The strongest emotion was when the confetti started to fall from the ceiling, seeing all my teammates crying with joy and hugging each other was one of the best moments of my life. We fought game after game, training after training and action after action, we earned what we deserved. Winning the title of NAIA National Champion is priceless, especially with a unique team like ours where trust and friendship come before any technical gesture.”

From emotions to budget. How do you rate your season? On a personal level and beyond the title, are you satisfied or not with what you have done?

“My season has been full of ups and downs. Competing against such a high level as that of Park University’s women’s volleyball team was not easy at all at first. Although I had always been convinced of what I could give as a setter, once here I questioned everything. The team is made up of very talented players who have helped me improve day by day. I’m fully satisfied with my season, I’ve grown a lot as a setter and as a leader. Sometimes I crashed because of the great pressure placed on the team or because of the intensity of the training, but all this made me grow as a player and today I consider myself ready to lead the team to another success next season.”

You came to the United States through the path supported by Sportlinx, from the 2017 Showcase to today: how much and where do you feel changed?

“Looking back on the girl I was when I decided to attend the 2017 Showcase , I can’t believe I’ve made it this far. The day I decided to sign the contract with Sportlinx to take on this adventure I wasn’t exactly convinced of what I was doing as I knew that sustaining a life as a student-athlete would not be easy at all. I have changed in many ways, but the thing that most distinguishes me is that I am independent. Four months spent having to reconcile school and sports commitments made me grow. It was a very hard path in which I had to work first of all on myself, trying to grow quickly, living day by day without wasting time complaining about the difficulties.”

An important title far from Italy, from your loved ones and from your family. How difficult was it to change your life at such a young age? Tell us about your first months in the Stars and Stripes.

“There’s a strong international community here at Park University and that’s why I immediately felt welcome from the first few months. Despite this, I suffered the distance from my parents and it still is, in the moments when I felt lost I wished I had them next to me. I dedicate this victory away from home above all to them who have always supported me and the first to have pushed me towards this new experience. The title of national champion has a great meaning for me, it represents a small revenge for all those who did not think I would ever make it and a great satisfaction for those who have always believed in me.”

Combination of sport and study. You are a direct and concrete testimony that this is possible. How difficult is it to combine these two elements?

I dare say that being able to organize my days between study and training was the most difficult step I had to face. On a typical day of mine I wake up to wait for my first class which starts at 10 am, with me I have to carry not only the backpack with the books but also the bag for training because among the various commitments I know that I will not be able to return to the dormitory to get ready. After class I usually go to the bookstore where I have more or less an hour to study before going to lunch at the school cafeteria, around 1 pm I have to wait for the second and last class of the day and then run to the gym and be in time for 2 hours of hard training. After training I go straight to the training room, where I usually meet the physiotherapist and take care of my body so that I am ready the next day for another workout. After this I finally go to dinner, but it’s not over as the training program involves going to the weight room several times a week. If there’s some time left and I’m not too tired, I’ll finish my studies and then go to sleep. There are certain days when we have to travel for away games and honestly they are my favorites as we are sorry to skip our classes, but during the trip I often find myself finishing homework or studying. Sport is very important here and many teachers are perfectly suited to the needs of student-athletes, plus the school system is almost entirely online so it is very easy to be able to manage your class schedule from a computer.”

Tell us about the three most exciting moments of the season leading up to the title. Which ones and why?

The season has been full of exciting and special moments, I could talk about them for hours. The first of these was when I made my first appearance in a game at the beginning of the season, despite the fact that I had never played with the team the Coach decided to let me in and it was a unique satisfaction to be able to play at my best and not disappoint the team. Another of my favorite moments was during one of the last league games before the finals, when my performance wasn’t the best and one of my teammates, Noura, came up to me, hugged me and whispered “I believe in you”. Knowing that even though I wasn’t playing at my best, my teammates were there to help me realized that in addition to being a team, the Pirates are a family ready to give you a hand to get back up. It may sound obvious, but the third best moment of the season was during the final. I’m not talking about the celebrations or the award ceremony but when in the fourth set everything seemed lost, the team was losing and we were one step away from losing the title of national champions. During a time-out the coach told us that no one could take away what we had been chasing for a whole season, no one deserved that win more than us. From that time-out all the crowd, the whole bench and the team on the pitch lit up and between screams of encouragement, concentration and sweat we conquered what was rightfully ours. When you really believe in something, no one can take it away from you because if you dream it, you can make it happen.”

Let’s conclude with dedications and thanks: who do you feel like thanking and to whom do you dedicate this victory?

“As I have already said, I dedicate this victory to my family who have always been close to me during these 4 months, who believed in me when I thought I couldn’t do it and who pushed me into this adventure knowing that it was the right choice for my future. I would like to thank Jesica Umansky and Elitza Krasteva for making this possible and following me step-by-step on the path that led me to leave Italy last summer. I would like to thank all my Italian friends with whom I have always kept in touch and with whom I have vented when I had problems. And last but not least, I wholeheartedly thank my coach Michael Talamantes and my teammates for showing me that a dream can come true if you really want it.”