SAN ANTONIO – “It’s not winning and losing, it’s winning and learning.”
That’s been the mantra for the UTSA volleyball team throughout 2019. It’s especially prevalent after Thursday’s 3-0 loss to No. 21 Rice in their last regular season game at the Convocation Center.
“We’re just taking this as another learning moment," said senior outside hitter Brianna McCulloch. "There’s still a lot of volleyball left to play and a postseason that we have to look forward to. We’re not going to dwell on the things we didn’t do. We’re going to look at those moments, analyze it and take what we need to into a quick turnaround for North Texas.”
The loss dropped UTSA to sixth in the Conference USA standings with an 8-5 record. Four of those five losses have come in the last month, including a three-game skid of 3-0 defeats to Western Kentucky, Marshall and Florida Atlantic. But after that stretch, UTSA found their footing once again and put together back-to-back wins against Florida International and Middle Tennessee.
“I think we changed our mentality," McCulloch said. "Last year, we called ourselves the comeback kids. This year, we’d go on a winning streak and suffer an occasional loss, but once you string together a couple losses, you have to stop and look at yourself in the mirror. We handled that situation well after those three straight losses.”
The feat is even more impressive considering how young the Roadrunners are. Eleven of the 15 players on UTSA’s roster are underclassmen: four freshmen and seven sophomores. The remaining four are all seniors: McColluch, defensive specialist Emily Ramirez, middle hitter Kara Teal and outside hitter Montse Castro.
“It’s a pretty interesting dynamic," Ramirez said. “It’s kind of a younger team. Our relationship with each other really developed as the season went on. Three of the girls on the team and I all went to the same Middle School. Same with Coach Dom[inique Gonzalez]. I like to think that because we’ve known each other for so long, we’ve grown close to each other.”
“It’s hard sometimes because you would normally look to your junior class to help back you up when talking to freshmen and sophomores," McCulloch explained. "Right now, we can’t look to them. We’re looking to our younger classmates to step up when we need them. Our freshmen class have stepped up phenomenally. We keep asking more of our sophomore class because they have so much more to give.”
The Conference USA Tournament begins on Friday, Nov 22 in Houston, but before that, the Roadrunners have one more regular season tune-up -- a road match against North Texas on Saturday.
“They’re a power-heavy, outside-hitting team with two solid middles," McCulloch said. "With the type of gym that they have, which is much lower than our Convocation Center, we’re just going to have to be much more aware of our surroundings and stay much tighter as a team.”
“We seniors are almost done, so we want to go out strong with everything we’ve got," Ramirez said. "We’ve only got a few weeks left, so we’re excited for it.”
UTSA faces the Mean Green at noon in Denton.