FAIRHAVEN — A visit to the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut sealed the deal for Fairhaven’s Rylee Botelho.
“I visited and it’s really beautiful,” said the 17-year-old Botelho. “It’s right on the water.”
It also didn’t hurt that the volleyball team has an overall record of 44-18 over the past two seasons, including a 26-8 mark and NCAA Div. II tournament appearance in 2019.
“It seemed like the perfect fit for me,” said Botelho moments after recently signing to play Div. II volleyball next year for the Purple Knights while studying psychology. “I kind of wanted to stay close to home. Since it’s only 2 ½ hours away, I’ll be able to come home when I can. It’s a good DII school. It’s very competitive.
“I’m just really happy I’m able to do this.”
Botelho didn’t start playing volleyball until her freshman year at GNB Voc-Tech.
She was immediately hooked.
“Ever since then I’ve been really dedicated to playing in the offseason,” she said, noting that she’s played for Max Performance and Coastal over the years. Freshman year I decided it was a sport I’d like to try and ever since then it just clicked and I really liked it.”
Botelho, a Fairhaven resident, transferred to her hometown high school after a year at GNB Voc-Tech and became the Blue Devils’ starting setter her sophomore year.
“Rylee is a talented player,” said Fairhaven head coach Tara Costa. “She’s definitely grown throughout the seasons I got to coach her.
“She was a good setter, but she didn’t know how to control the offense as a sophomore. That was something she had to learn how to do and understand the offensive options. She worked on that aspect.”
Botelho capped off her three-year varsity career at Fairhaven High last fall by surpassing 1,000 assists despite a COVID-shortened campaign her junior year.
“Achieving my 1,000 (assists) I’m pretty proud of myself for that,” she said, noting that it came against GNB Voc-Tech. “It was very hard with the short season we had. Some people said I couldn’t do it, but I did.”
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Botelho also takes pride in being a complete player. In addition to dishing out 493 assists, she also had 55 digs, 24 kills, 14 blocks, 187 service points and 49 service aces her senior year, earning Standard-Times All-Star honors.
“She’s able to play all the way around,” Costa said. “You don’t always find a setter that can be a good front row player. She’s a good blocker and she can attack.”
Botelho said that she’s focused on becoming an even bigger force on defense.
“I’m doing private training learning how to be more defensive as a player so I can get more playing time because my coach really wants blockers,” she said. “I think that’s why he recruited me because of my film. I’m going to improve on my blocking and my defense in order to be a defensive setter.”
Tara said she believes the sky’s the limit for Botelho.
“I think she has the potential to keep growing and learning,” she said.