While slightly undersized for a traditional hitter, HP junior led team in kills at U19 worlds
Bella Ocampo’s opportunity to play international volleyball this summer was also a chance to reconnect with her heritage.
The Highland Park junior shined while representing Mexico in early August at the under-19 World Championship tournament in Croatia and Hungary. That enabled Ocampo to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, who played volleyball for her home country decades ago.
Ocampo has lived in the United States for her entire life but eagerly accepted the invitation from Mexican coaches who contacted her earlier this year. She got dual citizenship and a passport, tried to improve her Spanish, and headed to Mexico City for two weeks of training.
“It was kind of special for my family,” said Ocampo, who traveled overseas for the first time. “I’ve always wanted to compete at the highest level of volleyball.”
Although her team lost six of eight matches, Ocampo led Mexico in kills from her outside hitter position despite being the youngest player on the roster.
She hopes to continue playing for Mexico as the country looks toward a brighter future in the sport including Olympic qualification. She will still be eligible for the U19 tournament again in 2025.
“They’re trying to get their programs at a higher level so they can compete with the powerhouses,” Ocampo said.
Meanwhile, Ocampo has been battling through a minor injury while returning to the court this season for the Lady Scots. She is in her third season at the varsity level, moving from a defensive specialist role to a prominent presence at the net.
“It was clear she was going to be a huge contributor to our program,” said HP head coach Michael Dearman. “She possessed a great vertical.”
That’s why Dearman and Ocampo both feel she can be successful as an outside hitter at the college level and beyond. She’s a bit undersized for the position at 5-foot-10 but compensates with power and versatility.
“She hits high,” Dearman said. “It’s an advantage to be taller, but when you have that vertical and explosive arm and ball control, she’s so effective as a hitter.”
That mindset also contributed to Ocampo’s decision to verbally commit earlier this year to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She will be eligible to sign with the Lions next year.
“I wanted a coach who wasn’t afraid to give me a chance to play front-row,” Ocampo said. “Everything with them happened so quickly.”