HARLINGEN — When Harlingen High freshman Juli Bryant takes the court fans know she is a force to be reckoned with, and the two-sport athlete entered her freshman year with high expectations.
But Bryant wasn’t sure if she was going to make the varsity roster until the first week of practice. She was called into the locker room, where she met with her coaches, and was told she made the team and received her varsity gear.
“I was called in, and the coaches told me that they had talked with the girls on the team and they felt I was ready and able to contribute, and they handed me my practice gear. It was a wow moment for me,” Bryant said. “I didn’t want to jump up and down, but I also didn’t want to be too quiet about it. I was just excited.”
Bryant was the only freshman on the varsity roster and excelled in her first year at the varsity level. The 5-foot-11 hitter collected 308 kills and amassed 157 blocks.
Because of her standout freshman campaign, Bryant was named the Valley Morning Star’s 2019 All-STAR Volleyball Newcomer of the Year.
“This means a lot,” Bryant said. “It was crazy when I found out. Coach called me and told me I won the award. I just thought it was really cool.”
Bryant, who also is on the varsity basketball team, stepped in right away for the volleyball squad. In fact, it was during a scrimmage that she knew she belonged at the varsity level.
“It was against Edinburg Vela, it hit me that all this was real,” Bryant said. “All the butterflies came when I first went in. When I got my first kill, you just saw the crowd and my teammates go crazy.”
The quick transition should not be a surprise to the Bryant family. Bryant has played volleyball since she was 4 years old, and it is her first love.
“The difference was just learning the approach when it comes to hitting,” Bryant said. “Before it was simple, but those were some things I had to learn, like different positions on the front row. It was crazy at first coming up from junior high, but my coaches had confidence in me, and I always got support from my teammates. That helped me a lot, too.”