SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 16, 2019) – With six newcomers, nine returners and a brand-new coach, the Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) volleyball team looks forward to continuing its winning traditions in 2019.
Scott Mattera joined the Saints in February of 2019, and he is eager to begin his first official season as head coach. "I was looking around at various jobs and opportunities; the city of San Antonio was a huge draw. Then when I came on campus, I met administration, other coaches and especially the young ladies that were part of the interview process. It was supposed to be for about a half hour, but it turned into an hour and a half. There was just a natural connection.
"I felt like I could help. I was walking into a pretty good situation after Coach [Jeremiah] Tiffin did a great job building the program and there's been a great deal of success here, so I hope to keep things going."
Last season, the Saints were the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) co-champions and finished as semifinalists in the conference tournament. In the previous three years, the Saints captured the regular season and conference titles and make three trips to the NAIA National Tournament. In 2017, they advanced from the first round to Pool Play.
NAIA Scholar Team
Volleyball, one of the two original teams at OLLU that started intercollegiate athletics in 2007, has also excelled in the classroom. They have been named an NAIA Scholar Team for the last four seasons. The honor is given to teams whose season GPA is above 3.0. Returners earning RRAC Scholar-Athlete honors were Ashley Maldonado (SO/Laredo, Texas), Alyssa Marquez (SO/Albuquerque, N.M.), Elizabeth Olivarez (JR/Edinburg, Texas), Anyssa Rivera (SR/El Paso, Texas) and Anissa Tamez (JR/San Antonio, Texas).
The Saints bid farewell to Mariza Cardenas and Divinity Gonzales last season. Cardenas was a four-year Saints, and she earned her degree in December 2018. All four years, she received RRAC Scholar-Athlete recognition, and she was a two-time NAIA Scholar Award honoree. Cardenas was named to the All-Conference team and Champions of Character teams two years in a row.
Gonzales played for the Saints for two years. She earned RRAC Scholar-Athlete recognition in her first year. She received her degree this past summer.
Seniors Rivera and Natalie Fazio (SR/Plano, Texas) will be playing their final season. Fazio joined the team last season, and Rivera has been part of the program for three previous years. During her first season, she was named Conference Freshman of the Year. Fazio was named All-Conference both years, while Rivera earned All-Conference honors three years in a row. In 2017, Fazio received Conference Newcomer of the Year honors.
Fazio holds the single-season record for most aces.
Bailei Hubbard (JR/Helotes, Texas) will begin her junior year. She received NAIA All-American honors two years in a row. She was also named twice each to the AVCA All-South Central Region Team, the All-Conference First Team and the All-Tournament team. In 2017, she received Conference Freshman of the Year, and in 2018, she received Conference Front Row Player of the Year
Hubbard holds the Saints season record for hitting percentage (.332) and for total blocks (106) and the single-game record for most solo blocks with six.
Tamez's awards include AVCA All-South Central Region, two-time All-Conference and Conference Setter of the Year. She holds the season record for most assists (967) and the single-game record for most assists (56).
Olivarez's awards include Conference Defensive Specialist of the Year and two All-Conference awards. She holds the season record for most digs (490) and the single-game record for most digs (38).
"It's hard filling in those middle positions, but having Bailei and Kruta in the middle is a luxury. Kruta bought into especially the off-court stuff in terms of the workouts. We are being very intentional with our strength and conditioning. She is a workout warrior. As good as she was as a freshman, she is only going to get better."
Kruta received AVCA All-South Central Region team honors, as well as All-Conference recognition. Marquez also received All-Conference recognition.
"The cupboard is far from bare. You walk into the gym and there and you've got several all-conference players, honorable mention All-Americans and some pretty good leadership. It's an exciting thing to be a part of," Mattera said.
In regard to seniors Fazio and Rivera, Mattera commented, "There is a lot of volleyball there between those two careers. We just want them to leave a legacy. It's not just how well you played, but what you will leave behind. Our leaders are really buying into that. It's not just a volleyball team; it is a program, it's a family, it's something special."
The Saints welcome freshmen Sadie Ballesteros (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Valerie Bolanos (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Jurnee Dimas (FR/San Antonio, Texas), Angelina Martinez (FR/San Antonio, Texas); sophomore Nicole Beffer (SO/San Antonio, Texas) and junior Kalani Ketchens (JR/San Antonio, Texas).
"Coming in in February [like I did], you've got to recruit a whole class. We were so blessed to be able to find young ladies who are great fits for our program," Mattera said. "All are high academic with really good volleyball pedigree and resumes.
"Kelanie Ketchins is coming in from Lee College, and she is a Brennan graduate. She played with Bailei back in high school. She's going to provide a lot of depth in various positions.
"Sadie Ballesteros is a freshman from Southwest, and she had a nice summer, and Angeline, Jurnee and Val – we've got a lot of kids coming in who are going to provide a lot of depth and a lot of experience from their high school, club and sand volleyball teams."
The Saints featured 24 regular season matches, including eight home matches and the Red River Conference Championship Tournament.
"We were able to put together a pretty nice schedule including some chances to be seen outside of our conference," said Mattera.
A new tradition will begin this fall in conjunction with the Blue Nation Orientation event for all freshmen and new students at OLLU. The Saints will host an exhibition match that will be the featured activity on the orientation schedule. The match will be against Coastal Bend College on Saturday, Aug. 17, during the event where new students will be welcomed to the 2019-2020 academic year.
"One of the things we are trying to do within athletics and the volleyball program, in particular, is to establish a culture here at OLLU where matches are fun events that everyone can come out and enjoy. Working with the Division of Student Affairs to feature a volleyball exhibition during welcome weekend right before their big Saturday night party should help us get off on the right foot building fan support!"
The women will travel to Hutchinson, Kan., for matches against Bethany College (OLLU 0-Bethany 0), Friends University (0-1) and York College (0-0) Aug. 23-24. The Saints will continue their road schedule Aug. 31-Sept. 7 with nonconference matches against Texas Wesleyan University (9-8) and Dillard University (0-0) at the Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) Tournament in Austin, Texas, and Mid-American Christian University (1-0) and Wayland Baptist University (3-5) in Plainview, Texas.
After a nonconference home match against NCAA D3 Texas Lutheran University (2-1) on Sept. 10, the Saints will begin their conference schedule against Huston-Tillotson University (23-1) Sept. 13 at home. They will travel to Dallas for a conference match against Paul Quinn College (1-0) on Sept. 14 and to Tyler, Texas, for another conference match against Texas College (20-0).
The women will play a nonconference match against NCAA D3 Southwestern University (1-5) on Sept. 25 in Georgetown, Texas, and then get back to conference play Sept. 27-28 and Oct. 4. They will face Jarvis Christian College (13-0), Wiley College (11-9) and Paul Quinn all at home.
The University of the Southwest (14-3) is next as the Saints will travel to Hobbs, N.M., for a match Oct. 5, and then return home to play the Mustangs again on Oct. 17. NCAA D3 Schreiner University (12-3) will face the Saints Oct. 9.
The conference schedule will resume Oct. 19 and Oct. 25-26 with matches against Huston-Tillotson in Austin, Texas, Wiley in Marshall, Texas, and Jarvis in Hawkins, Texas. The Saints will travel to Kerrville, Texas, for a nonconference match against Schreiner on Oct. 30. The Saints will play their last regular-season match on Nov. 1 against Texas College. This home match will honor seniors Anyssa Rivera and Natalie Fazio.
A big highlight on the 2019 schedule is the opportunity to host the Red River Conference Volleyball Championship Tournament for the fourth time in five years.
"Obviously, getting to host the conference tournament at the end of the season is a big deal," Mattera said. "It shows that the conference really respects the work that OLLU has done in the past in hosting the event, and it gives us a bit of a boost playing in front of our home crowd for that bid to nationals!"
The Saints are hopeful they will return to the NAIA National Championships Tournament for the fourth time in five years. The Saints captured the regular season and tournament titles in 2015, 2016, 2017 and last year, they were co-champions of the regular season but missed out on the tournament title and a trip to nationals.
The national tournament begins Nov 17 for the opening round at campus sites and Nov. 27-Dec. 1 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Joining Mattera on the coaching staff are newcomers Krystal Puente and Daniel Orosco.
Home matches and live streaming
All home matches take place at Mabee Gymnasium, which is located in the University Wellness and Activities Center (UWAC). Admission charge is adults, $5; children, 7-17 years, $3; faculty, staff and students with ID, free.
The volleyball team is welcoming the "Voice of the Saints," John Paul, who is an educator in the North Side Independent School District. He will announce all soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball home games.
Michael Thompson, the live streaming "Voice of the Saints," will return to call all Saints home games that will broadcast on the OLLU Saints Network. The games will also be broadcasted on the KSAT.com ap.