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Spotlight of Former Athlete: Priscilla Eckstein Lese Lima – Volleyball 1999-2003

Lima: From Rio, to UL, to the beach



By Bruce Brown


Written for Athletic Network



Priscilla Lima admits she got a late start in volleyball, but she has still made a life in the sport.


After shining for UL’s Ragin’ Cajun women’s program from 1999-2002, the Rio de Janeiro native is still going strong on the pro beach volleyball tour as well as coaching new young talent in the sport.


All this from an athlete who didn’t hit the court until age 15.


That (age 15) is an almost impossible time (to start) for Brazil,” Lima said. “I started super late. I was very lucky to get into club volleyball and I was really well trained. I was able to catch up in a year.


I was into dance until volleyball. Especially flamenco dancing. I also played handball for one year, and earned a varsity letter in school.”


But volleyball was her destiny.


It was love at first touch,” Lima said. “Once I started, I wanted to play all the time. (She still does.) I don’t remember anything else. My ball control was really good, and I had good knowledge of the game. They made me a middle hitter.


My coaches kept me up at the highest level of the game.”


But Rio is a little off the beaten path for recruiting, especially with a limited budget, so how did Lima become a transplanted Cajun?


I was at a club practice,” she said, “and a former assistant at UL who had played for my coach visited and said you could play in America and go to school. I had no idea what recruiting was like – I do now since my wife is a Division II coach – and I asked if I could come in 1999 instead of 1998 since my mom was expecting my younger brother.


Can you imagine? What if there had been changes at UL? It was really meant to be. After he was born, I didn’t see my brother for 2 years. It took me one semester to adapt (to college). It got easier.”


Lima quickly excelled for the Cajuns, and a dozen years later still ranks fourth in digs and fifth in kills on the school’s career charts.


I was primarily a middle blocker, but I also played on the back row,” she said. “Wherever I was needed, that’s where I wanted to be.


I never felt like I was the leader. The leader is your captain. I always play as hard as I can. I kept everybody accountable. I felt I was the voice on the team. I bring 100 percent to the court, and I hate it when the team’s not playing at that level.”


The Cajuns were a combined 46-43 during Lima’s first three years, coached by Chris Campbell, then 15-14 under Becky Madden in 2002. Lima earned All-Sun Belt Conference and All-Louisiana accolades for the program.


The first year, the team was really good, but we could have done better,” she said. “As a sophomore and junior, I would think about what we could accomplish. Becky Madden brought me back to a higher level of volleyball. We were undefeated for two years at home.”


While at UL, Lima was introduced to beach volleyball at Lafayette’s Volley Beach facility, and fell in love all over again.


You need to be well-rounded, an all-position player in beach volleyball,” she said. “The skills are the same; it’s just adapting. It’s harder to move, at first, but you develop ‘sand legs.’ It’s a bigger court to cover, and you have to have every shot.


I never stopped going back indoors. The game is so fast, so powerful. It took two weeks for me to get back into indoor shape. But, I prefer beach volleyball, because I’m a ball hog. It’s like chess. I love the challenge to run the full court, and you only have to rely on just one other person.


It’s what I do. And, when I go to the office, I wear a bikini.”


As recently as 2014, Lima paired with Karolina Sowala for five victories in the NVL (National Volleyball League). She was named Most Improved Performer in 2009 in the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) and is going strong 5 years later.


When I first started, big names like Holly McPeak were in their prime,” Lima said. “I got my butt kicked by some of the greatest players in the game. I was blessed to step into that era. The learning curve was that much faster.


My first tournament, I was a No. 72 seed. You needed five rounds to qualify, and I met the No. 16. The next tournament, I qualified, and since then I’ve never failed to qualify.


You get in, do the best you can, live in the moment and train hard. I was so blessed that it took off so fast. All I was thinking about at the time was the now.”


Living in the moment has worked for a lifetime in the sport, and there is much left to do.


I had no idea how long I would play,” Lima said. “I never know if I can make it. All I know is that I need to be better than last year, the last tournament.


(Playing) 15-20 years is very do-able. Players play into their 40’s or late 30’s, because it’s easy on the joints. Many hit their prime then.”


Lima is married to Michelle Piantadosi-Lima, the head volleyball coach at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., who is a former star player for the Tennessee Volunteers. They were friends through the sport for 7 years before becoming a couple.


When she’s not on tour, Lima runs the Optimum Volleyball club in St. Petersburg.


Florida has a flourishing beach volleyball culture, second only to California in that regard, and the pair is well positioned to thrive.


I get to coach both beach and indoors,” said Lima, who said her spare time often involves volleyball games with friends. “I love the sport, love to be around the gym helping young players. I’m learning the business side of it as I go.


It’s a great adventure, a dream come true.”


And a long way from Rio.

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Pictured above is the 2002 Volleyball team. Click here for the 2002 Volleyball photo gallery. Click on a thumbnail to enlarge photo.

Click here to view Pri’s Athletic Network profile.

Click here to view Pri attending the 2003 Athletic Network meeting at the Alumni Center. Click on middle photo in top row.

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Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.