COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: Falcons return to court ready to build off spring season

Just a few months ago, the UTPB volleyball team found itself in the Lone Star Conference playoffs after its 2020 season was moved to the spring.

The Lady Falcons advanced to the conference tournament’s quarterfinal round before falling to Arkansas-Fort Smith.

After seeing a large of its spring roster return along with some new additions, UTPB is looking to build off the spring in its 2021 season opener Friday.

The Falcons kick things off at the Britkare Lady Buff Classic against Southwestern Oklahoma State at 9 a.m. and St. Edward’s at 2 p.m. in Canyon.

The Falcons will play Fort Lewis and Adams State Saturday to close out their opening slate of matches.

Head coach Tim Loesch believes the spring’s schedule gave his team a confidence boost to continue performing at a high level in the fall.

Last year, the Falcons played tough stretches that included four contests against AVCA Division II National Champion Angelo State.

“We had a super tough schedule last year and playing the national champion four times was tough at first, but we got better and we took sets off them,” Loesch said. “I think toward the end of the season, the team realized we were playing a lot of good teams and it’s helping us get better.”

UTPB heads into the fall with 12 of its team members having played significant minutes for the team in the past.

Setter Analise Lucio is one of the team’s returners who will look to build off her performance in UTPB’s postseason run.

She led the Lone Star Conference with 490 assists and was named to the All-Conference team when the spring came to a close.

Some of Lucio’s season goals include becoming a more vocal leader for the Falcons and continuing to set up her hitters for effective attacks.

“We’re just trying to get in a mentality of where we were last year and (get) even better,” Lucio said. “We have been progressing the whole time I’ve been here and getting better and better.”

Lucio, a senior, has taken to building chemistry with her returning teammates and the newcomers the Falcons welcomed over the offseason.

UTPB signed four new players including outside hitter Sara Antic, defensive specialist Kaitlyn Bustamante and middle hitters Logan Terrazas and April Egwu.

Terrazas joined the team after transferring from Midland College where she averaged 2.36 kills per set in 13 matches last year.

She said she felt immediately welcomed by the Falcons as soon as she joined the team for practices.

“We’ve gotten a lot better at chemistry on and off the court,” Terrazas said. “Our team bonding has just helped so much with everybody.”

Although Terrazas is dealing with an injury, she wants to be an immediate contributor for the Falcons when she can get back on the court.

Over the team’s first fall practices, Loesch has seen his players express determination, energy and effort.

He said those aspects are half the effort but he still wants to see everyone get more consistent at certain skills and he wants to cement a starting lineup.

The Lady Falcons were picked to finish 10th in the Lone Star Conference’s preseason poll, but Loesch wants to see his team finish at the top of the pack.

Angelo State is favored to win the conference with 31 first place votes, with UT Tyler and Texas A&M-Kingsville following in second and third, respectively.

“I think we’re right there, we just need one or two players to step up and the team to jell a little bit more, communicate a little bit more,” Loesch said. “The margins are much narrower than it was at the beginning of spring.”

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