A familiar face is set to reappear in Brazil’s women’s national team roster during the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League as 39-year-old middle blocker Carol Gattaz has been called up to represent her country for the first time since 2013.

Gattaz had last appeared in a Brazilian uniform in the team’s winning campaign at the 2013 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup. Her return to the international level after almost a decade was prompted by several strong club seasons with Fiat Minas, in which she captained the team to victories in two editions of the Brazilian Superliga, three at the South American Club Championship and a silver medal at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship.

“I’m so excited to be back after such a long time, everything is new, I feel the same way I did when I was first called up,” she told Volleyball World. “I knew that as each year went by, it was less likely that I’d ever have another chance with the national team. But my main dream is to play in the Olympics and when I realised I was performing well enough to accomplish that, I just went for it. The first step is taken, I’m here and now I need to keep working to secure my spot in the roster.”

Brazil celebrate at the 2013 World Grand Champions Cup

Brazil celebrate at the 2013 World Grand Champions Cup

Born in July 1981, Gattaz is the oldest player in the 2021 VNL and will celebrate her 40th birthday during the Tokyo Olympics. That would be a major turnaround for a player who didn’t get to play internationally for eight years and had accepted the idea that she could never get to represent her country again, let alone at the age of 39.

“I never imagined I’d be playing at this age,” she explained. “I think that for every athlete, it gets to a point at which you need to take it one season at a time, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And I had to change some of my habits and take extra care of my body too, but there are great examples of other athletes who keep performing in their 40s and I take them as inspirations.”

Carol returns at a time when head coach Jose ‘Ze Roberto’ Guimaraes and his team could certainly use help from an experienced and efficient player at the middle of the net. With Thaisa Menezes’ recent retirement from the national team and Fabiana Oliveira becoming a mother just a few months ago, the team was stripped of arguably its two best options in the position.

“We’ll never be able to replace players like Thaisa and Fabiana and even Walewska (Oliveira), who came before them, because all three of them were phenomenal,” said Gattaz. “But I’m really positive about the players we have here and I’m sure we’ll be able to keep this position as one of the team’s strengths.”

One of Carol’s main assets in her return to the national team will certainly be her strong connection with setter Macris Carneiro. The two have been playing together at Minas since the 2017-2018 club season and their chemistry has made of the veteran one of the most lethal pieces of the team’s offence.

“This connection we have is really important,” she added. “We can communicate without even having to say a single word and it’s always positive when a hitter has that kind of relationship with her setter. Ze Roberto wants us to play fast and that’s something both of us have in our games, so I believe that can help not only me, but the team.”

The veteran took a medal home in her last tournament with the national team as Brazil won the 2013 World Grand Champions Cup. Gattaz expects to do at least as well on her return to the national team.

“We prepared really well for the VNL,” Gattaz said. “Some don’t put us among the favourites and I get that, but we’re a very strong team. We know we’ll be playing against great opponents but I believe in the work we have done and we’ll fight to win medals both at the VNL and the Olympics.”

Brazil's first opponents in the 2021 edition of the VNL will be Canada on May 25.