By Andy Wright | Ball State Sports Link
Hiago Garchet was living the dream.
At 18 years old, he was the starting setter for the Brazilian state of Minas Gerias in the Brazilian National Youth Men's Volleybal Tournament. He was the captain of his team. His coaches loved him.
“I was just living every day, playing for my club, doing good,” Garchet said. “ We would win state every year, and all the championships we played.”
Garchet is from Belo Horizonte, Brazil where he played volleyball for more than eight years. He played a variety of sports including swimming, judo and basketball, but it wasn't until he played volleyball that he found his true passion. Garchet's first volleyball coach designated him as an outside hitter, but he never fully grasped the idea of playing the position.
“I was an outside hitter for four years, but I always wanted to be a setter,” Garchet said. “It’s just more exciting, it’s more responsibility and that’s why I like it.”
Every time Garchet sets the ball, his face is livid with concentration. Whenever he assists on a kill, he screams with energy and a fired up complexion that lights up his face.
“It’s so much more natural now that I’m a setter, because I feel like my teammates really need me,” Garchet said.
As the starting setter, Garchet led his team to two second-place finishes and a third-place finish in the Brazilian National Men's Volleyball Championship. After his third year with the state team, Garchet had finished high school, but he was left with a major decision -- whether to play volleyball professionally in Brazil or go to a school for a college education.
“It got to a point where I had to decide to play pro or study,” Garchet said. “We don’t have this conciliation between studies and sports.”
Garchet was faced with uncertainty as he wanted to continue playing volleyball, but if he did so, he would be giving up a chance at a college education because Brazilian colleges don't have athletic departments as colleges in the United States do.
It wasn't until Garchet's father encouraged him to take a chance at playing volleyball in the United States where he could receive a college education in addition to playing volleyball.
“My dad would say just go to the U.S, and go to college there,” Garchet said. “You won’t regret it.”
After much deliberation, he decided on playing volleyball in the United States. He sent out videos of himself playing, and several colleges including Ball State took notice. Garchet was intrigued in playing for Ball State, but he ended up choosing Park University in Kansas City, Mo., because Ball State didn't have a scholarship for him at the time.
“We didn’t have the money that it took, and really at that time the timing of needing a setter just wasn’t perfect,” Ball State Men's Volleyball Head Coach Joel Walton said.
After one year at Park, Garchet knew he needed a change. He made the transition to Muncie, Ind.
Now, he was living the dream.
He was a Division I Men's Volleyball player in the United States at Ball State University.
“I’m playing for one of the top 15 ranked volleyball teams in the U.S,” Garchet said. “I’m studying what I want at a good school. Fortunately, I have parents that can afford that and provide that for me. I had the opportunity from Joel to make it possible.”
After a great volleyball career in Brazil as a youth, he had made the transition to a great volleyball program in the United States where he would have the chance to play volleyball and get a degree at the same time.
With Garchet's arrival at Ball State, it isthe first time a Brazilian setter has played for Ball State in 20 years.
The last player to do so was Eduardo Ferraz, who played at Ball State from 1993-1997. Ferraz led the Cardinals to three Final Four appearances in the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship. He was an All-American setter who was also living a dream.
Ferraz and Garchet are not just connected by playing at the same school -- they actually met each other while in Brazil.
“I heard about him because we played for the same volleyball club,” Ferraz said.
After transferring to Ball State, Garchet met Ferraz in the summer while playing at his former volleyball club. Ferraz happened to make a visit while Garchet was there. It was before Garchet’s first year at Ball State and the two became close friends.
“He was just like a dad,” Garchet said. “He was a person that I had that I could trust, even though it was a really hard situation of changing schools.”
Ferraz was a great mentor for Garchet while in Brazil, but when he left for Ball State he would be leaving that behind. That's when Ferraz told the BSU-bound setter of his former friendship family, the Gorofolos.
Gary and Pat Gorofolo had hosted Ferraz at their house, because he actually went to Muncie Burris high school as a senior. He soon joined Munciana, a local volleyball club, which turned into a scholarship with Ball State. When Ferraz knew Garchet was coming to Ball State, he immediately told him about the Gorofolos, who welcome him with open arms.
“We come to the games, we have him for dinner, and we enjoy showing him different cultural experiences that he may not have ordinarily,” Pat Gorofolo said.
The Gorofolos have become Garchet's parents away from Brazil, giving him all-around support.
“They are like my American parent,” Garchet said. “They are always texting me to see if everything is going well. It’s nice to have them around.”
Again, Garchet was living the dream.
He had a new relationship with Eduardo Ferraz, one of the greatest setters in Ball State history, as a mentor in addition to a friendship family as his family away from Brazil.
With his experience in Brazil playing volleyball to his transition to Ball State, Garchet couldn't be happier with where life has taken him. The Cardinals were 22-8 in 2014 behind senior setter Graham McIlvaine. With McIlvaine’s graduation, the position is just another opportunity for Garchet.
“I'm really blessed to be here,” Garchet said. “This is an opportunity that many people dream about, but it doesn't happen.”
You could say it is a dream, but for Garchet, all this is reality.
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