SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 24, 2012) -- It was a night of celebrating for Our Lady of the Lake University's (OLLU) volleyball team. Seniors Christine Ruckman, Jordan Latham, Norma Fraga and Desirea Aguilar were honored for their accomplishments before the match began. Then the Saints hit the court to sweep the Lady Rams from Texas Wesleyan University 3-0.
The win moves the Saints to 7-2 in the Red River Athletic Conference and 12-13 overall, while Texas Wesleyan drops to 5-3 and 16-13 overall. OLLU, along with league-leader University of Texas at Brownsville, Wiley and St. Thomas have clinched a spot in the conference playoffs that take place Nov. 9 in Fort Worth. Conference tournament host, Texas Wesleyan, is still hoping to earn a spot with one more week left in the regular season.
Ruckman, who was joined by her fiancé Ashley Hernandez, and father Daniel Ruckman, was lauded for her impact on the team in only one season. She joined the Saints after playing for Laredo Community College and Prairie View A&M University upon graduating from San Antonio Warren High School. She has played in 19 matches and is the team's leader in kills with 241 with an average of almost four kills a game, but in the last six matches, she has recorded as many as 23 kills and as little as 14. The 23 kills and the 21 she has recorded twice this year are the second most by any Saints player in history. For Ruckman's performance last week, she was named "Player and Hitter of the Week" by the conference. This is the first time ever that a Saints volleyball player has received "Player of the Week" honors. Although OLLU has had libero and hitters of the week, the player of the week is the only one that competes nationally, so this award is very impressive. Ruckman's stats include: 241 kills on 493 hits totaling an overall .292 hitting percentage and a very notable .364 hitting percentage in conference placing her second in conference. Ruckman also leads the team in blocks and block assists.
Latham, who was accompanied by her mother, joined the Saints last year after transferring from Midland College. She has played in 117 games. She has accumulated 155 kills of 528 opportunities. Her other stats include 10 assists, four service aces, 2 block shots and 11 block assists.
Fraga was joined by her parents Norma and Santos Fraga. In 2009, she played in 82 games and 29 matches accumulating 84 kills and 166 digs. But in 2010, Fraga only played in one match but then suffered a shoulder injury that prevented her from playing the rest of the season. In the three full seasons she played, she has recorded a total of 85 kills on 305 hits, 19 service aces and 282 digs. Fraga has also excelled in the classroom with a GPA better than 3.5. Through her hard work, she was selected to participate in an internship with State Farm last semester. Her final presentation, The Youthful Hispanic Market featured research and recommendations on how best to serve the insurance needs of the Hispanic population in San Antonio and Texas. Last year, she received the Red River Athletic Conference Scholar Athlete award.
Aguilar was joined by her parents, Julia and John Aguilar and sister, Angelina. She has played in a total of 342 games and at the conclusion of the regular season, she will have played in 100 matches, not including the post season. Aguilar is close to being the all-time leader in assists in a single season. So far, she has 409 – the most she has accumulated in four years. She has become the all-time leader in service aces in a single season with 44 so far this year and career service aces with 94. She is second on the all-time list of career assists with 1,353 and second in career digs with 550. In 2010, she received All-Conference Second Team Honors and last year, she was named to the All-Conference Honorable Mention Team. Aguilar has also been a pillar of excellence in the classroom. Last season she received the Capital One Academic All-District First Team Award. And, every year since 2009, she has received Conference Scholar Athlete Recognition.
Each of the seniors received a photo collage depicting the season(s) they played at OLLU.
The Saints took command at the onset of the first game, but the Lady Rams came back to tie at 6-6. The Saints jumped back despite a battle that changed leads four times and had the teams tied five times. After an ace by Jessica Chavez, the Saints took game one 25-19.
The Lady Rams kept the second set close, as well, and the Saints eased up to let the Lady Rams take the lead by as much as six points. Bryttany Willoughby scored several points including two aces to tie the game for the Saints at 20-20. Kills by Shelby Aelvoet and Ruckman gave the Saints the edge as they pulled ahead to win 27-25.
During the third set, the Lady Rams were determined to prevent the sweep, but Ruckman, Aelvoet, Sydney Herrera had answers for every hit attempted. The Saints played flawlessly on defense but kept making errors on serving. However, the errors were not enough for the Lady Rams to gain much momentum. The Saints reached their first match point leading 24-23, but a towering kill by TWU's Britney Bryant tied the score. Latham slammed the ball over for a point to give the Saints their second match point at 25-24. Several attack errors on both sides pushed the game back and forth with the Saints reaching match point two more times and the Rams two times before the Saints pulled through to win 32-30 after a kill from Ruckman.
Ruckman finished the match with 14 kills on 18 hits for a .556 hitting percentage. Latham recorded 10 kills. Aguilar added 19 assists.
The Saints will be in Georgetown, Texas, on Friday and Saturday to participate in the Southwestern University Tournament. On Friday at 3 p.m., the Saints will play Southwestern, and at 5 p.m., they will face Austin College. On Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the Saints will take on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and at noon, they will play East Texas Baptist University. The team will then get back to their conference schedule on Nov. 2 when they play Huston-Tillotson University and Nov. 3, University of St. Thomas.
The NAIA Champions of Character program aims to instill five core values in NAIA athletes, coaches: respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership, and sportsmanship. Our Lady of the Lake University shares and supports these values and strives to promote the Champions of Character program by working with students, coaches through our Champions of Character educational program. For more information on the Champions of Character program, click here: www.championsofcharacter.org.
Luis A. Lárraga
Sports Information Assistant