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CSU volleyball player finds family on court

Italian student-athlete Sasha Colombo hasn’t seen her family since close to the beginning of the pandemic, but her teammates and coaches have rallied around her.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — She might be from half a world away, but Colorado State University middle blocker Sasha Colombo is finding comfort in her home away from home.

“Just knowing that I have 15 built-in best friends on the team was an amazing feeling,” Colombo said.

She calls her teammates and coaches in Fort Collins her “second family.”

But since the pandemic began, nothing has been easy for Colombo. Her family lives over 5,000 miles away in Milan, Italy. And the last time she saw them was near the beginning of the pandemic.

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“I’ve definitely made a lot of sacrifices just to be able to be in America,” she said.

“With COVID just everything that I knew was changed up on me very quickly,” she added.

Colombo went back to Italy when everything shut down, but had to find her way back to the U.S. amid travel restrictions and had to spend two weeks in Turkey before getting back to Fort Collins and having to quarantine there. 

But she did have a travel buddy – her mom Nicolle.

Credit: Zack Tawatari
Sasha Colombo and her mom

“She’s definitely my number one fan,” Colombo said.

And since sports have bounced back and she’s been back to playing games, she said the hardest part is that her mom hasn’t been able to watch in person.

“It’s about 3 a.m. when she wakes up to watch my game and then she goes back to sleep," Colombo said. "After the game I go back to the-to the locker room real quick and message her and say, ‘Thank you for staying up.’”

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So, she holds on to a tradition that they share.

“Our tradition is when I get a serving ace, I always dedicate it to my mom because I know she’s watching," Colombo said. "So I’m like, ‘Mom, that one’s – that was for you.’” 

Credit: Zack Tawatari

Her teammates and coaches said they do their best to make up for who Sasha is missing.

“Sasha gets a lot of love from her teammates because she gives a lot,” Coach Tom Hilbert shared.

“So much joy, friendship and camaraderie on the court and off the court so it’s just a joy to give back,” said junior hitter Jaqui Van Liefde.

Teammates and their parents have invited her to holidays that she hasn’t been able to go back to Italy for.

“Over Thanksgiving or Christmas break, I receive invites from many families on the team,” Sasha said.

She said she hopes that sometime soon she can look back up into the crowd see mom cheering her on.

“She would sit right behind our bench," Colombo said. "Up there… yeah. It would be great to see her here soon… but we’ll just hope for the best.” 

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