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UTEP Volleyball Set for New Challenge

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UTEP Volleyball Set for New Challenge

Luis Barrio, Contributor

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UTEP volleyball is set to open their 2013 campaign facing three of the best teams in the nation at the 2013 Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The team is led by two first team All-Conference USA selections seniors Xitlali Herrera and Jeane Horton. The Miners will face the University of San Diego in their season opener. The next day, they will face the defending national champions, the Texas Longhorns, and will close their competition Sept. 1 against the 11th-ranked Hawaii Warriors.

“I want to bring the intensity and the speed of the game and improve on those things and give ourselves a lot of chances to win,” said new head coach Holly Watts. “These ladies all want to win. They have all come into my office and sat there one-on-one and said that they want to win. We’re going to do everything we can to elevate the intensity to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Watts brings 19 years of Division I experience and a resume that screams success. As an assistant head coach at Arkansas and Florida State, her teams have consistently been the top 15 squads in the country and she took Florida State to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

Watts was also a player at the University of Texas from 1989-1993, where she was selected as Most Valuable Player in 1993.

Watts is the seventh-head coach in program history and she will have seven returning letter winners. One of those is defensive specialist Victoria Valencia.

A local girl out of San Elizario, Valencia is in the last stretch of her Miner career.  She stands at 5-foot 3-inches and is an all-around student athlete, earning honors for her work in the classroom as well as leading her team in digs and service aces in the 2012 campaign.

“It’s not about one person. All of us have the mindset that this sport is a team sport. It comes with a bump, a set and spike. It’s about everyone playing together and everyone contributing. The mood of this team is to have each other’s back and support each other,” Valencia said. “Outside of volleyball, the girls are always together and that cohesion is important because it also transitions into unity on the court. We don’t want it to be just about volleyball, we definitely want to have that trust and respect for one another and we can bring that onto the court as well.”

The Miners are coming off an early exit from the Conference USA Tournament in 2012 and are eager to move forward with their new coach.

“We’ve been working really hard and these practices have been high on intensity. I think we are all going to get better with her (Coach Watts),” Herrera said. “Every time I step onto the court, I give it my everything, 100 percent. If you don’t give it your everything, you’re not going to get better.”

Herrera is only the second Miner in program history to earn back-to-back All-Conference USA first-team honors and she is currently part of the Mexican national team.

“She’s a good leader on the court and she encourages others to do well and sets a good example for others as well,” said sophomore Lindsey Larson. “I want to win conference. As a team goal, we want to make it to the (NCAA) tournament.”

Larson suffered a torn ACL injury and redshirted her freshmen year.  However, she said she is back even stronger. Larson worked with the strength and conditioning department, rehabilitating and recovering from her injury during the summer.

“Right after she got cleared, she was on fire, I felt like she never had surgery,” Valencia said. “I think from last year to this year, Lindsey has shown the biggest improvement.”

Valencia added that Larson improved her vertical jump and improved in speed and strength.

The Miners will begin with a home opener at 12 p.m. on Sept. 6 against Southern University and Oral Roberts at 7 p.m. at the El Paso Sports Commission Volleyball Invitational at Memorial Gym.

 

Luis Barrio may be reached at theprospectordaily.sports@gmail.com

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About the Contributors
Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

Luis Barrio is a staff reporter specializing in Sports. He is also the co-host of the Prospector News Weekly, a weekly broadcast that covers all of the...

Veronica Enriquez, Photo Editor

Veronica Enriquez is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in art.

Currently, she is working...

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UTEP Volleyball Set for New Challenge