HARLINGEN — Harlingen South’s Mya Aguirre imagined her college signing day would take place in a gymnasium full of her friends, classmates, and family.
The senior setter was scheduled to announce her formal commitment to attend and play volleyball at Huston-Tillotson on Tuesday from her home using Zoom, a videoconference tool that has become a part of everyday life for many in the Rio Grande Valley in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“I definitely never imagined my signing would be like this,” Aguirre said.
In February, the Valley Morning Star’s 2019 All-STAR Setter of the Year, a four-year varsity letterwinner, attended a tryout at Huston-Tillotson, a small private university in Austin.
The Rams are led by coach Dan Behnke and compete in the NAIA’s Red River Athletic Conference. Huston-Tillotson finished 2019 at 26-6 and captured a conference championship with an 11-1 record in conference play.
As a junior, Aguirre said she attended a showcase where Behnke approached her, and the two began to connect.
After a “long process” of visiting and weighing offers from Santa Monica College in California, where her mother grew up, and Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, 15 miles south of downtown Dallas, she received an offer of a scholarship and roster spot from Behnke.
A connection from a family friend and Rio Grande Valley native in Rio Hondo, alumna Taylor Gomez, a freshman who just completed her first season with the Rams, helped solidify her decision to stay closer to home.
“It’s a very small campus, it’s gated and it felt like home,” Aguirre said. “The coaches (empowered me to feel like) I could play and succeed at the next level.”
Aguirre plans to major in nursing at Huston-Tillotson.
“(Aguirre) had an amazing career,” Lady Hawks coach Anette Lucio said. “Starting on varsity as a freshman, going all the way to her senior year. She really grew on the court, she was a captain for us.”
During her final season at South, Aguirre racked up 497 assists, 408 kills, 411 digs, 25 aces and 15 blocks.
Lucio said Aguirre’s growth as a hitter helped her evolve into a more complete player. It was a challenge, Aguirre noted, to bring her hitting up to par with the standards she set for herself as a passer and a setter, but she embraced the opportunity to add another element to her game, putting in extra time after practice to hone her skills.
“She was a great hitter for us,” Lucio said. “She was smart, she knew where to place the ball. … That was something she really progressed with.”
Aguirre credited Lucio and her stepmother for their guidance, and said she believes making the playoffs during her junior season helped turn the program in the right direction.
“When Coach Lucio came in, we all really started to work harder,” Aguirre said. “We felt driven to win more. We had a boost of confidence. … It’s been an uphill battle for us.”
Aguirre and outside hitter Mikela Mireles combined to form one of the Valley’s top 1-2 punches in the sport.
“(Aguirre) was somebody we looked to to keep the team together on the floor,” Lucio said. “She was the quarterback of our team.”