• September 16, 2019

COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: Matthews looks to make an impact in senior season - Odessa American: Sports

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COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: Matthews looks to make an impact in senior season

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Posted: Monday, September 9, 2019 7:50 pm

Entering her senior season, UTPB’s Travana Matthews now has a better understanding of time management.

Whether she’s on the volleyball court with her teammates at practice, in a game, in class, studying at the library or working at her job at University Small Animal Clinic, Matthews knows she has to manage her time as she prepares for life after college and for her final season as a Falcon.

So far, all of that has gone according to plan.

The senior middle hitter aims to go out on a high note this season but she knows it’ll be a mixed bag.

“Just knowing that it’s going to be my last season, it’s kind of bittersweet,” Matthews said. “It’s bitter in the fact that it’s my last season at UTPB and my last season to get to play volleyball.

“But it’s sweet in the fact that I’m going to be getting my bachelor’s at the end of the school year so it’s a double-edge sword.”

Matthews, who majors in biology and minors in chemistry, will be graduating in the spring of 2020.

But her school days won’t end there as she looks to become a vet.

“Since I was younger, I’ve always wanted to go to vet school so this is shaping me to be ready for it,” Matthews said. “I have more school on the way.”

Matthews helped the Falcons get off to a fast start at last weekend’s Dr. Steve Aicinena Invitational in which the host Falcons went 4-0, posing victories over University of the Southwest, Westminster, Texas A&M International and Fort Lewis.

“It feels good because usually our team takes a while to get started and this year, we got started right off the bat,” Matthews said.

She says the main challenge for she and her teammates is to not get too complacent.

“I think the main challenge is coming off a good tournament and staying humble,” Matthews said. “We can’t get too confident.

“Just because we did well this weekend doesn’t mean that we’ll do well every week. I feel like we just have to keep that in mind.”

The Falcons are trying to capitalize off a strong season last year, going 14-16 overall and making the conference tournament for the first time in the program’s history along, with victories over Tarleton State and Angelo State in the regular season.

“I feel like the end of last season helped us buy into the belief that we can do great things despite being a young program in a tough conference,” Matthews said. “We have the means and the bodies to do it.”

She’s had to take on more of a leadership role this season, being named one of the team captains.

“This year, I’m more of a leader and a captain,” Matthews said. “I feel like that helps push the team and keep the goals in mind and holds everyone accountable.”

She’s felt honored by the trust her teammates have shown in her in being a captain.

“I’m thankful for my teammates for putting me in that position because it’s a great deal of responsibility and the fact that they believe that I can do that means a whole lot to me,” Matthews said.

UTPB head coach Tim Loesch has also noticed her transition over the last four years.

“Travana’s grown a lot as a student as well as a player and a student and a leader,” Loesch said. “When she came in as a player, she was a bit raw. But she’s worked hard and has picked up the speed of the game and refined her skills and athleticism to play her best volleyball ever now.

“She’s also become a better student. She was named a captain and has stepped up as a leader. I’m proud of all those areas of improvement as a player.”

When she’s not on the court or in class, Matthews will usually be at work the vet clinic.

“I’ve actually done a whole lot there,” Matthews said. “I got promoted to vet tech where I do blood work, prepare animals for surgery as well as lab work.”

But her time management skills didn’t always come easy, something that Loesch has pointed out.

“She’s had to learn time management that she didn’t have coming in but also,” Loesch said. “But she’s communicating better. She knows if there’s a conflict or if she’s coming in late to let me know. She’s improved her communication greatly and is getting ready for life after college.”

She also said it helps that her job has been adaptive to her schedule.

“In volleyball, coach understands my schedule and gives us the schedule in advance and lets us know what we’re doing,” Matthews said. “That helps regulate my schedule.

“I also have to be mature and disciplined and make sure I’m taking the time to study and not just working and playing volleyball all the time.”

As the Falcons continue through the early stages of their 2019 schedule, the wins from last week have given Matthews and her teammates extra motivation.

“I feel like some people might be a little bit nervous about it but it has made me more excited and everything to play with the people that we have,” Matthews said. “Our bench is loaded and we’re a lot more versatile and adaptive. It gives us another chance to prove that our preseason ranking might not have been accurate.”

>> Follow Michael Bauer on Twitter at @OAMichaelba

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