D'Errico's dream finally comes true

By David Hibbard, Batavia News, August 18, 2011

BERGEN — Alyssa D’Errico’s lifelong dream finally is coming true.

The former Byron-Bergen star and four-time national champion at Penn State has signed a contract to play for Feel Volley Alcobendas, a professional volleyball team in Spain.

“I was reaching and hoping, but not having a ton of belief that that was actually going to happen. And now that it has, it’s just like (I’m) ecstatic,” D’Errico said while taking a break from giving instruction at the Byron-Bergen Volleyball Camp last week. “I can’t believe it and I’m so excited for the opportunity just to be even considered to play there.”

D’Errico’s contract runs from Aug. 31 until the end of March.

“Most foreigners only sign one-year contracts because you don’t want to get yourself in a situation where you go there and you don’t like the team, you don’t like the location, you don’t like the coach, and then you’re stuck there for another year,” she said.

She is excited for the possibility of having a similar experience enjoyed by two of her former Penn State teammates and housemates, Christa Harmotto and Nicole Fawcett, both of whom play professionally.

“Christa has played in China, she’s been in Italy; Nic was in Russia, she was in Puerto Rico, she was in Brazil, she’s in Poland this upcoming year,” D’Errico said. “So if you sign a one-year contract, you have the opportunity to go different places and experience different cultures and travel, which is awesome.”

Alcobendas plays in Superliga 2 de Voleibol Femenina, one notch below the highest-level league in Spain, Superliga de Voleibol Femenina.

Superliga 2 is comprised of 10 teams.

“No matter what league it is, what level it is, to be able to call yourself a professional athlete is incredible to me, especially (because) I graduated (from Byron-Bergen) with (110) people,” D’Errico said. “You don’t think small-town big dreams actually happen until they’re happening to you.”

The town of Alcobendas is located eight miles north of Madrid.

“That’s awesome because the one place I told my agent that I wanted to play and I would like him to find me a contract was Spain, just because I spoke Spanish through middle school and high school (and) I took a year of it at college,” D’Errico said. “So I at least felt comfortable a little bit for my first year, going where I can kind of pick up the language easier because I have a background with it.”

After spending four years as a libero at Penn State, the 5-foot-9 D’Errico will be in a familiar role as Alcobendas signed her to be an outside hitter — a position she played during a brilliant career at Byron-Bergen, where she helped the Bees to three Class C state championships and five Section 5 titles.

“I’m excited because I miss hitting and when I went to college, I didn’t get the opportunity to do it,” she said. “So I’m thrilled at the opportunity to even be playing, but I’m also thrilled at the opportunity that I get to go back to my roots and take a few swings and play the whole game instead of just the back row game.”

Earlier in the day when she worked the Byron-Bergen camp, D’Errico spent nearly two hours in the gym — with the help of her mom, Cindy — doing hitting, transition and other workouts.

“I’m definitely going to have to step up my strength and hitting the ball hard,” she said.

D’Errico’s road to Spain was, to say the least, a winding one.

“This summer’s been kind of like a rollercoaster,” she said.

The first step came quickly.

One day after she graduated from Penn State, D’Errico got a call from her agent — who works for Bring It Promotions, an agency based in Santa Barbara, Calif. — saying that a team in Germany wanted to fly her out for a tryout the next day.

She spent a week in Germany at the end of May and impressed both the team manager and the coach. The team also was looking at a libero from Germany and eventually decided to sign the German player — partially because that player was a better fit for the team and partially because signing D’Errico wouldn’t work out for them financially.

“(It was) fine. I understand,” D’Errico said. “And after that, I was kind of down. I was like ‘Aww man, I already lost an opportunity.’”

A couple of weeks later, her agent received a call from a team in France that saw some video of D’Errico playing and wanted to sign her.

“So I was super-excited about that,” she said. “(I was) ready to go, did some research on the team, looked at them, watched them play. I was so excited.”

D’Errico ended up signing a contract. And she felt great about her prospects.

“I researched the town I was going to be in, I talked to people who had lived in France before and had been there and had traveled and knew where to go,” she said. “I actually had two people from the team contact me and they were like ‘Hey, are you the new American that they signed that’s going to be our libero?’”

But about a week later, the volleyball federation in France changed its rule regarding the number of foreigners that could play on its teams, lowering it from three to two.

That team already had one player from Africa and another from Brazil. So the team decided to drop D’Errico’s contract.

“Liberos are not the most important position overseas in many people’s eyes. So that was a big bummer,” she said. “Then I was down and out a little bit after that and kind of not knowing if I was going to go play anywhere.”

If D’Errico hadn’t secured a contract by last week, she could have chosen to go on an Exposure Tour Aug. 13-22, a trip to Slovenia on which nearly three dozen players were to have another chance to display their talents.

But even before the deal with Alcobendas happened, she had already told her agent that she didn’t want to go on that tour.

“After the France deal fell through, I got a little bit frustrated. You get kicked so many times and it’s harder to stand up,” D’Errico said. “After Germany, I was like ‘All right’ and I bounced back a little bit, started training again and then (signing the contract with) France happened. And I was so excited and I started training and was ready to go and I had a week that I was starting to play, starting to do stuff and just kind of work back into it. And then that happened (with the France deal being dropped) and it was just another blow. ...

“I was frustrated. My mom talked to me and was like ‘Are you sure you want to make that decision? That’s basically saying that you’re giving up on your dream.’ And I was like ‘I don’t know. I’ll think about it and get back to them.’

“But luckily, the Spain deal came up before I actually had to make that decision ... because I don’t know what decision I would have made.”

Now the biggest decision D’Errico may have to make is what to take with her to Spain. Because in less than two weeks, she’ll be a professional.

“It’s surreal,” she said. “It’s like one of those things where you reach and you don’t think you’re going to get there. But you reach that far, just in case you fall short, you still got further than expected.”