Mexican national brings wealth of experience to the court
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
UTEP volleyball junior Xitlali Herrera was named to the pre-season All-Conference USA team, and at six feet tall the Miners’ middle blocker stands out.
Mention volleyball and Herrera’s smile brightens up the entire gym. She loves the game, which keeps her busy all year around by competing in beach volleyball in Mexico, during the offseason.
She’s been playing beach volleyball since she was 14 years old, and it doesn’t look like the 20-year old will be taking any time off soon.
“It’s a much more different game...everything is different, you have to play against the elements, and it’s just you and another player,” Herrera said. “In college volleyball you have to depend on six other players, and you have to work as a team in order for everything to come together.”
Herrera arrived at UTEP in 2011 after making her name known at the international level, playing for the Mexican national team. There she helped Mexico reach seven top 10 finishes in the World Tour.
Herrera led the Miners in kills, hitting percentage, kills per set and blocks in her first season at UTEP.
Volleyball head coach Ken Murphy said he enjoys working with Herrera and enjoys having her on the team.
“She comes in and she’s got a lot of experience, and so you can coach her a little different, because she’s a little bit more sophisticated,” Murphy said. “A great all-around player, and I’m happy to have her on my team. This is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here, and so the expectations I have is to get them accustomed to competing with the best teams in the country.”
The big test and challenge comes on Oct. 12, when Murphy and his Miners face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which are the 2012 Conference USA preseason favorites.
“Tulsa is standard top-25 team by the time we play them, they are all seniors, and if we can beat them or compete with them we have made a lot of progress towards our goal of having a successful season,” Murphy said.
Junior outside hitter Jeané Horton, has been on the squad since 2009 and has high expectations for her team. She’s looking forward to the Conference USA Tournament and believes they have a good chance of doing great things this season.
“Our goal is to have 20-plus wins this season, we had 19 last year, but no UTEP volleyball team has ever won more than 20 games,” Horton said. “Don’t sleep on us, we’re coming for the Conference USA title.”
On playing with Herrera, Horton complimented her teammate for what she adds to the squad.
“It’s amazing. It’s awesome to play with her, she’s a great athlete, she competes really well and she knows the game of volleyball,” Horton said. “She has so much experience from playing in Mexico and bringing it over here to the States, like she’s showing us a whole another broad idea and mindset of volleyball and so I enjoy it every time I come out here and I learn from her.”
One thing that motivates these young players is the crowd attendance they receive from the local community and the student body. They enjoy looking up into the bleachers and seeing a sea of orange and blue.
“We have great crowds for our home games, and the crowds are always very intense...it gets loud in here,” Murphy said.
Herman Delgado may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.