Samantha Bricio is used to making headlines. While her rise to stardom in the world of European pro volleyball might seem to come out of left field to many, even in her own country, the tall, lanky outside hitter has been in the spotlight since childhood.
She has been learning to play volleyball since she could walk. A teenaged Bricio took the gold at Mexico's Olimpiada Nacional (National Olympiad), dominating the youth category.
Her performance was so impressive she later became the youngest person ever to suit up for Mexico's senior national volleyball team, at 15. After touring the world with various youth and senior squads before finishing high school, she accepted a full athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California. She had received a dozen offers from schools in Mexico and the United States.
A Pac-12 All-Freshman her first year, Bricio went on to graduate with a degree in psychology from the university. Her sporting accomplishments were just the latest in a family filled with athletes. Both her father and brother had played for the Mexican national basketball team, while her mother continues playing competitive volleyball to this day.
“My grandpa, uncles, nephews, cousins, all are athletes,” she told the official USC website earlier this year. “Everyone.”
Bricio's notoriety grew at USC as she was able to lead a team picked to finish fifth in Pac-12 play in 2015, to a conference co-championship with Washington. That year, she led a team seeded first in the NCAA Championship to the regional finals, where Bricio and USC were upset by Kansas.
Her senior year at USC capped off a momentous college career, with Bricio setting school and conference records en route to graduation. In December of 2015, espnW crowned her the country's Volleyball Player Of The Year. “We have people who drive 100 to 150 miles to see her play,” USC coach Mick Haley said at the time.
Upon leaving the NCAA circuit, Bricio adapted quickly to the pro game, playing in Italy following a brief stint in the United States. There, Bricio is a promising professional, joining Italian champs Imoco Volley Conegliano on a two-year contract and becoming the team's first ever Mexican player.
In only a few months, Samy is already racking up silverware. Last week, Imoco won the Supercoppa, with a dominating performance from Bricio, who was named the competition's Most Valuable Player.
“The Guadalajara native was a key factor for the victory,” cooed the Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy's leading sports newspaper. Another publication, the Corriere dello Sport, noted that Bricio's professional aspiration outside of volleyball is to one day join the FBI following a master's degree from USC; jokingly pegging it as ironic because “the only crime to analyze at the moment is the death of her opponents' dream, where she is the main culprit.”
After nine games this season, Bricio's team sits squarely in first place, looking to repeat its championship run. Elsewhere, Samy and Imoco will look to make a splash in the continent's biggest competition, the Champions League, where Italian teams have dominated since the 1990s.
Despite her recent arrival in Italy, her star is growing in the same manner it did in Mexico and the United States. At Conegliano, she is already a fan favorite and consistently hounded for autographs after games.
“I love [the fans] because they make me feel at home,” Bricio told Italy's Panorama. “I already love Conegliano and I hope to contribute important victories to this great club.”