Volleyball pushes forward and prepares for upcoming season

The volleyball program is looking forward to its 14th season. The Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) moved fall sports to the spring due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which included volleyball, as well as soccer, and cross-country.

Second-year Head Coach Scott Mattera addressed the change saying, “We are framing the move to the spring as a positive. We will have the fall to get to know each other, train together and get into a college life routine before we have to compete.”

Mattera is accustomed to recruiting athletes in person over the summer and had to adjust these past few months. “Normally we use the summer for open gyms, camps and as a time to recruit and connect,” he said. “While it was strange not doing those things, we also knew that we weren’t losing ground because it applied to everyone else.”

Anissa Tamez (SR/San Antonio, Texas) will be one of the senior leaders for the Saints this year. She has been a key player for the program the last three years and is looking forward to her senior season. During her three years, she has been a three-time American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-South Central Region Team recipient, a three time All-Conference First Team winner, a RRAC All-Tournament honoree, RRAC Setter of the Year, a nine-time RRAC Setter of the Week winner and she has been named a RRAC Scholar-Athlete all three years.

“I’m expecting a lot out of my senior year,” Tamez commented. “I’m looking forward to a conference championship and another shot at getting to nationals.” Tamez advises the new athletes to enjoy every moment and give their full effort.

Kalani Ketchens (SR/San Antonio, Texas) and Amanda Esparza (SR/San Antonio, Texas) round out the senior class for the Saints.

In Ketchens’ first season in 2019, she was an All-Conference First team recipient and was the RRAC Newcomer of the Year.

Junior returners include Tijana Kruta (JR/Bar, Montenegro), Ashley Maldonado (JR/Laredo, Texas) and Alyssa Marquez (JR/Albuquerque, N.M.). Kruta was named to the AVCA All-South Central Region Team in 2018, and she was a All-Conference Second Team in 2018 and All-Conference Honorable Mention in 2019. In addition, she received Attacker of the Week honors in 2019. Maldonado is an RRAC Scholar-Athlete. Marquez was named All-Conference Honorable Mention in 2018 and All-Conference First Team in 2019. She also received RRAC All-Tournament honors and was named RRAC Defender of the Week three times. Last season, she was an RRAC Scholar-Athlete.

Returning sophomores are Sadie Ballesteros (SO/San Antonio, Texas), Valerie Bolanos (SO/San Antonio, Texas), Jurnee Dimas (SO/San Antonio, Texas) and Angelina Martinez (SO/San Antonio, Texas).

Ballesteros was named to the All-Conference First Team in her first season last year. She also received RRAC Attacker of the Week honors. 

Esparza was a RRAC Scholar-Athlete last season. Ketchens was named to the Red River All-Conference First Team and earned Red River Newcomer of the Year. Tamez was named to the AVCA All-South Central Region Team as an honorable mention and was part of the Red River All-Conference First Team. She also made the Red River All-Tournament Team and was named RRAC Setter of the Week five times. Tamez rounded out her season with the Red River Scholar-Athlete award.

The Saints welcome freshmen Anastasia Brown (FR/Aransas Pass, Texas), Daisy Cantwell (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Skyla St. Clair (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Madalyn Gonzalez (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Cassidy Haller (FR/Cibolo, Texas), Anna Sujo Hernandez (FR/Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico), Megan Montalvo (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Ashleigh Ramirez (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Tory Rodriguez (FR/Helotes, Texas), Jaalin Rosser (FR/Universal City, Texas), Madelynn Strzelczyk (FR/San Antonio, Texas) and Lauren Woitena (FR/New Braunfels, Texas). The transfer athletes include Savannah Cassiano (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Mia Soto (JR/San Antonio, Texas) and Alyssa Gallardo (JR/San Antonio, Texas). Analisa Fernandez (FR/San Antonio, Texas) will be the team’s manager. Fourteen athletes are the largest incoming class for the program since the inaugural season in 2007.

Rodriguez was the first commit of the 2020 freshmen class. “The recruiting process was a very positive experience,” she said. “One of the main reasons I chose OLLU was because of Coach Mattera. He provided me support by sharing valuable feedback and kept in close contact with me.” Rodriguez plans to contribute to the team with positive energy and by establishing herself as a leader.

The Saints finished 19-7 overall and 8-4 in the RRAC during Mattera’s first season at OLLU. OLLU concluded the season as the runner-up in the RRAC tournament after falling to Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) in five sets.The Saints were recognized as an NAIA Scholar Team for the fifth year in a row.

The team will release their adjusted spring schedule later this fall. The NAIA has scheduled April 27 through May 1 as the tentative volleyball national championship dates for the 2020-2021 season.