Every once in a while, national teams around the world are gifted with the opportunity of considerably improving their positions on the international volleyball scene through the power and the influence of a generational talent. Mexico is in that exact situation right now with Samantha Bricio.
A Guadalajara native, the 26-year-old outside hitter is not just the face of the Mexican national team, she is arguably the best player the country has ever produced. The peak of her career most likely gives the Mexicans, who are currently 27th in the FIVB World Rankings, their best-ever opportunity to climb the ladder and find their place among the elite of the sport.
And Bricio’s club career certainly leaves no question as to whether she’s the right person for the challenge.
Immediately after she graduated from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, USA, in 2016, Bricio headed directly to Europe and had remarkable success in what are probably the continent’s top three women’s leagues.
With Imoco Volley Conegliano, the club she played for in her first two years abroad, Bricio won the Italian Cup and the Supercup in 2016-2017 and the Italian League the following season. She also helped the team claim medals at back-to-back editions of the CEV Champions League, taking silver in the first season and bronze in the second.
The 2018-2019 season she spent with Fenerbahce didn’t result in any titles, but it was still a successful one, with a silver medal collected from the Turkish Cup and another third-place finish in the Champions League.
Bricio joined Dinamo Kazan ahead of the 2020-2021 season and has already lifted two trophies with her new club following victories in the Russian Cup and the country’s Supercup. She will also be hoping for more as her team continues to compete in the Russian women's league Final Six this weekend.
An outstanding all-around player, Bricio has developed a reputation for being one of the best servers in the world. Since her time playing collegiate volleyball, the high-flying Mexican has put opponents in trouble every time she walks to the service line.
Her pre-serving routine has also become as much as a trademark for her as her big smile and her ability from the service line, which has earned her individual awards on several occasions, including in the Turkish and Russian Cups and the Champions League.
The unprecedented success of a Mexican playing in some of the best leagues in the world has made Bricio an obvious role model for most of her younger compatriots and the fact that she can relate to and connect with her young teammates makes the role even more natural for her.
“To be honest, the thought of being considered a veteran in the national team at such a young age sometimes scares me, but I’m for sure a senior in our team,” Bricio reflected in an interview with the European Volleyball Federation Youtube channel in 2020. “All the other girls on the team are pretty young, they’re all 17 or 18 years old, so I’ve accepted that I’m a senior at this point.”
Despite her success at the club level, Bricio has clearly stated over the years that the biggest dream of her career is yet to be accomplished as she expects to see the Mexican national team compete against the best in the world at the international level.
There have been some signs of progress lately, including a Mexican participation in four of the last five editions of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships, but her biggest dream is way more ambitious than that.
Bricio wants to lead Mexico to a return to the Olympics after more than a half-century of wait as the country’s single participation took place back in 1968, when Mexico City hosted the event. The team put up a good fight at the 2020 NORCECA Qualification tournament but ended up coming up short. The focus now is already on Paris 2024.
“The Olympics are the ultimate goal for any team and it’s the same for us,” the outside hitter added. “Our last tournament as a team was the last opportunity we had to go to the Tokyo Olympics and it was a good one. We almost beat the Dominican Republic, we took them to five sets, which was pretty good for us. I feel like you can win everything, but if don’t make it to the Olympics, there will always be something missing. Even after all I’ve won, if I play at the Olympics, it will mean a lot more.”
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