Christyan Berger is a fast learner.
The Revere senior setter joined the boys’ volleyball team in its inaugural 2021 season with zero playing experience, rapidly ascending to leader of the 2023 Patriots. But he marked another impressive achievement Thursday night, receiving a Seal of Biliteracy for his English and Portuguese.
When Berger and his Brazilian family immigrated to the United States, he was 11, and he knew no English. He became fluent in six months.
“I just learned that, if you put your mind to something and if you really work for it, you can do anything,” he said.
Berger and his mom, dad, and younger brother emigrated from Guarapari in 2016. His parents disguised the move as a vacation to New York City so as to not alarm their children, but when they continued to Malden, Berger realized the trip was more significant.
“I was really scared because [it was a] new place,” he said. “We did not know anybody here. My mom had an aunt that lived here but that was it — just one aunt . . . I had to start school two months after I moved here. That was really, really scary too.”
Berger attended middle school in Malden before his family moved to Revere in 2019. The early years of financial uncertainty were challenging; Berger says he went upwards of three years barely seeing his parents because of their long night shifts and multiple jobs.
Local Facebook groups and message forums helped guide the family to work and enroll in school, and Berger still appreciates the generosity of Massachusetts’ immigrant community.
“I feel like this community that we have here, they’re a good resource for any immigrant that’s coming in, to just have people that have experience on it,” he said.
His father now works as a painter and his mother is a nanny. Berger, who will be a first-generation college student at Salem State, is thriving at Revere, where he also participates in JROTC. Coach Lianne O’Hara Mimmo met him for the first time as a freshman in her biology class, and has admired his transformation.
“In the classroom, he was one of the most quiet kids. I would have to call on him to get him to speak,” Mimmo said. “And now on the court, every year he tends to be a little bit more vocal.”
Volleyball is Brazil’s second-most popular sport, behind soccer, and even though Berger had never played before high school, he was a lifelong fan alongside his father, Leandro. He even owns a jersey signed by national team setter Bruno Rezende.
“Whenever there’s a Brazil game anywhere, my dad and I always tune in and watch it together. It’s really fun to have that bonding time,” Berger said.
He leads a star trio with Alex Serrano Taborda and Ruben Rodriguez, who powered the Patriots to a 16-4 record in the program’s third season. Revere did not lose a Greater Boston League game all season.
Serrano and Berger, the only three-year varsity players on the squad, have grown close as a hitter-setter duo.
“It just brings out like a sort of connection to it — that we’re the last ones who started the program and stayed with the program,” Serrano said.
Revere is a diverse community; more than 40 percent of its residents were born outside of the country. Mimmo appreciates how the Patriots have broughttogether students from all sorts of cultural backgrounds. They take the court with pride while representing a rising program.
“It’s almost like a cult following in the school,” Mimmo said. “They carry volleyballs around the school, they’ll meet up when they have free time; they’re playing in the gym right after school. So we’ve definitely created this culture that kids want to be part of.”
▪ After a 1-18 finish in 2022, Arlington ran it back to much greater success.
Last year’s squad was adjusting to the move from JV to varsity after they replaced a large graduating class from the year before. With more experience, they’ve compiled a 13-7 mark in 2023.
“There were a lot of nerves [in 2022], we couldn’t compete as well, having not played varsity time,” coach Elizabeth Morris said. “We did a lot of offseason work and a lot of training in the gym throughout the fall.”
The boys’ and girls’ teams play together, and they work with the middle school program that Morris created two years ago, cultivating a community and getting year-round practice in the process.
Senior setters Ben Garrigus and Rodrigo Lopez give the team versatility (they can run both 6-2 and 5-1 setups), and classmate Noah Varghese has led a balanced net presence for the Spy Ponders. Sophomore Ian Lewis will be the only returning varsity player next year.
“They’ve got great attitudes, they’re very outgoing, very positive, which is something you don’t usually see from a team turning around,” Morris said.
▪ It was a rare fifth set for Needham when Milford took them to the brink, but the Rockets prevailed, 16-14, in the final frame for the program’s 66th consecutive win. Behind Needham, just four teams have one loss (Acton-Boxborough, Lowell, Medfield, and Lowell Catholic), and three have two (Westfield, Agawam, and Abby Kelley Foster) as the regular season draws to a close.
▪ Friday was the cut-off date for the boys’ volleyball regular season. The MIAA will release postseason seedings and brackets on Tuesday (11 a.m.).