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Paving her path in the sand: Marian Ovalle

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela
Despite the language barrier, Ovalle has spent time as a kid in El Paso and loves the city and culture.

Editor’s note: This article is the second part to a three-part series featuring student-athletes from the Mexican State of Chihuahua.

Through thick and thin, UTEP beach volleyball player Marian Ovalle has seen quite a bit, thanks to her involvement in volleyball. A transfer from the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) and a native from Ciudad Juárez, Ovalle has found a home with the Miners.

In her time in the U.S., Ovalle has overcome what a lot of international student-athletes face. Her time with the NMMI Broncos was dedicated to learning English while also performing at a competitive collegiate level.

“When I went to (Junior College) (NMMI), I did not speak any English,” Ovalle said. “It was hard because of COVID, and I moved from Juárez to New Mexico without any English. It was hard to communicate with my teammates, coach and just classes in general.”

The former Lady Bronco raked in 625 kills, 131 total blocks and 548 digs over the course of 23 matches. Soon, Ovalle was brought on to the Miners volleyball team in 2022 for her junior year. Ovalle attributes her drive to her parents.

“(My parents) are always pushing me,” Ovalle said. “They teach me that, if you want to do something, you need to fight for it and work really hard, to get it.”

Despite her limited time with the team, Ovalle has cemented herself as a critical piece to the machine. Contributing 135 kills, 46 digs and 34 total blocks over the course of 25 matches while sharing the roster with the likes of Serena Patterson and Sara Pustahija. Now, Ovalle finds herself overcoming another challenge; playing beach volleyball.

UTEP launched its first ever beach volleyball team this spring with several indoor volleyball players taking part in the team’s inaugural season. The new program is led by Head Coach Ben Walis and Assistant Head Coach Daniel Foo. As with many endeavors built from the ground up, the beach volleyball team’s first year has been anything but easy sailing, struggling to win only four games.

Ovalle, along with her match partner sophomore Madison Hill, won a total of six of their matches this season which led the team. The pair showed massive improvement by winning those six games in the final 10 game stretch. But Ovalle feels like her leadership on the team still has room to grow.

“I would not say I’m at the very top just because I’m still learning,” Ovalle said. “The seniors that we have are really good at being good athletes. I have been helping the freshmen with how it’s going to start, what we have to battle through. I tell them, ‘Do not worry about it, you are going to be good.’”

Ovalle also speaks highly of her teammates and the culture built around both teams.

“I have really good teammates that help me to have a really good time here,” Ovalle said. “I just like playing with them, it’s really fun and just making my career here I think is a really good and showing that I want to say.”

Ovalle has also devoted some time with the Under 23 Mexican National Volleyball Team during the 2021 Pan-American Cup. There, Mexico swept in the group round winning three of the stage’s three matches. In the teams win over Guatemala, Ovalle nailed a kill in the match’s third set to help seal the game for Mexico. The team would reach the finals of the tournament but would subsequently fall to the Dominican Republic 3-0 for its third straight championship. This experience has influenced Ovalle’s plans for her future and career.

“I still want to play with the National Team in Mexico,” Ovalle said. “That’s one of my main goals and I want to play pro. I would like to go to Europe and just play there.”

Ovalle acknowledges the benefits of playing at UTEP as she enjoys spending time with her teammates. Despite the language barrier, Ovalle has spent time as a kid in El Paso and loves the city and culture. Sharing those emotions and connections with her friends and family is something Ovalle does not usually take for granted.

“My family was always like, ‘let’s go El Paso just for shopping,’” Ovalle said. “I knew the culture before and it’s just really fun. I feel like now, just going with my teammates to shop. I realized that it is important to spend time with my family and the people that I really love. That was one of the reasons I wanted to be close to home.”

Ovalle and the rest of the Miners are now preparing for the Conference USA Beach Volleyball Tournament which takes place from April 27 to April 29 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The team will face off against Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville State, Tulane University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela Armendariz is the sports editor and may be reached at [email protected]: @rivasemmanuel2 on Instagram

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About the Contributor
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela, Contributor/Writer
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is a contributor for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with minors in political science and Chicano studies. Emmanuel served as sports editor at The Prospector and as a writer with Minero Magazine. Now, Emmanuel is interning at El Paso Matters and is a contributor at The Prospector.
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Paving her path in the sand: Marian Ovalle