The Spanish pipeline

Photo Courtesy of Marquette AthleticsMarquette Catholic freshman Daniela Bellido, an exchange student from Spain, has made an instant impact atop the Blazers lineup and is hopeful of advancing to the state finals.

SOUTH BEND — It's a small world, after all.

Daniela Bellido was golfing in a tournament in her native Spain last year when she noticed another player's bag had the Marquette Catholic logo printed on it.

The eighth-grader from Alella, outside of Barcelona, had just finalized her plans to come to Marquette as an exchange student. As she came to find out, that golfer with the Marquette bag was Teresa Dorado, another Spanish golfer who spent the first semester of the 2017-18 school year as a Blazer and qualified for the state finals.

"I thought it was great that she knew and could tell me about it," said Bardello, who sports her native colors on her golf socks. "She said it was lots of fun."

Bellido's school, Hamelin Laie International School, had two students come to Marquette last year and they, too, spoke well of the experience. Dorado's brother currently attends the school as well. 

"As of today, we have just over two dozen foreign-born students on campus," Marquette Assistant Athletics Director Brad Collignon said. "Some stay here for a few weeks, some are here for a semester, others reside on campus all four years. We've seen an increase in students from both Spain and France the last couple of years. Of those two dozen international students, Daniela is one of two -- Paco Alonzo, boys soccer, is the other -- playing a varsity sport here this fall."

Bellido and her parents wanted her to be a part of the exchange program in order to learn English. The 14-year old already has a working handle on the language.

Both mom and dad golfed and she took up the game when she was 5. 

"She's very serious about golf," Blazers coach Bill Luegers said. "She really enjoys playing the game. We took a Friday off and she was disappointed we weren't going to practice, so I told her I'd take her out to Long Beach and let her see the course. We went out and played." 

Yes, they did keep score.

"It was close," said Luegers, a good golfer himself. "She shot a 42 and it was the first time she'd looked at (the course). She knows the game very well. She's got a very solid swing. Everything about her game is pretty solid. Plus she's just a delightful kid."

That pleasant personality has helped Bellido fit in comfortably in a situation that isn't always easy.

"I really like the people," she said. "Everybody's really friendly. It's fun being able to play on a team. I'm used to playing alone. It's been great with all the girls." 

Bellido has been living in on-campus housing with other exchange students, but is in the process of moving in with the family of another Marquette freshman. 

She's hopeful of doing what Dorado did in advancing to the state finals. Her addition to the team also puts the Blazers in the mix for the third qualifying spot out of the Sept. 20 La Porte Sectional.

"She's really mature for a freshman," Luegers said.

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