Immediate Impact: Tijerina’s Journey to Become Volleyball’s Dynamic Libero

RIO GRANDE VALLEY – In a short amount of time, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) redshirt junior libero Regina Tijerina has made a major impact, not only on the Vaqueros volleyball team, but on its fans.

Tijerina played high school volleyball at Brownsville’s Jubilee Academy while simultaneously playing for the state’s Selección Tamaulipas in Mexico. The Matamoros, Tamaulipas native connects with so many of the young fans and volleyball players who come to watch UTRGV matches, and they often show their appreciation for her.

During student-athlete introductions before home matches, Tijerina consistently receives the loudest ovation from screaming girls as she takes the court. After matches, she takes countless photos with admirers and is a highly requested autograph. The skills and positive attitude she displays on the court quickly made her a fan favorite in her first season as UTRGV’s libero.

“Kids tell me, ‘I want to be like you,’ and I feel very emotional when they tell me that because I was like that when I was a kid,” Tijerina said. “I would go to games and I would want to be like the players, so I know the feeling of the kids and I am very excited and happy to be the player for them that I looked up to. I was not expecting it. I think they see me staying positive and cheering on my teammates and that makes the kids believe you enjoy what you’re doing. I’ve been having so much fun this season and I’m so grateful.”

Tijerina redshirted the 2021 season after transferring from Texas A&M International (TAMIU). Before TAMIU, she played for Laredo College (LC) and earned National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XIV Co-Libero of the Year, Second Team All-Region XIV and LC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Leveling up from junior college to NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I competition has shaped the student-athlete Tijerina is today.

This season, Tijerina has played in all 31 matches for UTRGV. She boasts a team-high 447 digs, 18 aces, 102 assists and a whopping .967 receiving percentage on 514 serve receptions. Her Excellence in serve-receive is one of the biggest benefits she brings to the team and has made the Vaqueros a better passing team than in years past, Lowery said.

“Sometimes you see liberos that are great liberos, but they’re not necessarily great serve-receivers. Regina is a very strong serve-receiving libero and it’s a big help,” UTRGV head Coach Todd Lowery said. “Serve-receive, for me, is a touch that you have or you don’t. It’s probably the Hardest skill to train. We’ll search for people that are great passers because if you have great passers then you stay in system and everything just gets easier. It’s a natural touch on the ball and she worked really hard on it.”

Tijerina is just as impressive delivering a serve as she is receiving one. She has great control over her floating serve, showing “the ability to serve short and still drive balls deep into the court when people creep up” which Lowery appreciates. But her passing prowess is what really makes her shine.

“I think the quality of her passing has been the biggest plus for our team,” Lowery said. “She has the ability to take up a lot of space. On serve receive, she covers ground and helps our outsides because when you’re confident with the person passing your seam, you get more confident as well.”

For Tijerina, success on the court starts with having the right mentality, being confident in yourself and supporting your teammates. She wasn’t named the starting libero when the season began, but that didn’t affect her attitude. She welcomed the healthy competition between her and the graduate student defensive specialist Sydney Schoen for the libero role and credited their relationship for her and the team’s success.

“Sydney and I are really close. We are roommates and we support each other. If we change roles, it’s like, ‘I got you here and you got me there,'” Tijerina said. “That’s the most important thing on the court and on a team. You can’t be jealous if you’re competing with someone else. You should push yourself to be better and if someone is better than you, you need to just support and put in your effort.”

Tijerina impressed the coaching staff with stellar defense at the first tournament of the season. Her play earned her the opportunity to be UTRGV’s libero at the second tournament, Louisiana’s Sawyer Camillo Memorial Classic, and she responded by earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Regardless of what role she takes in a match, Tijerina simply sets out to give it her all.

“I don’t like to finish a game and think, ‘I could have done this better. I could’ve done more.’ Sometimes it’s going to be like that, but you have to always push yourself,” Tijerina said. “Throughout the season I’ve been putting all effort. I feel confident on the court. Practicing every day and having good competition with my teammates, that makes me feel like I’m getting on another level.”

Tijerina gets that all-out mentality from her family. She grew up playing volleyball with her sisters and cousins, being coached by her dad at his volleyball club in Matamoros. Her grandparents are at every home match and her parents watch every game from Mexico. She always has text messages from them waiting for her after a match that they send while she’s playing, sometimes telling her things to correct and often praising the job she’s doing.

“I grew up in an environment where you have to be tough, have a good mentality and always stay positive. You have to be a respectful player, disciplined player. It has helped me to grow a lot as an athlete,” Tijerina said. “That support from my family has always been there. I can feel it on the court. I know they’re watching me. I feel very, very proud to represent my family, and they always tell me that they’re proud of me .”

On Friday, Tijerina and the Vaqueros will take on Houston Christian at 7 pm at the UTRGV Fieldhouse in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC). She’s glad to have another opportunity to play in front of the home fans and positively impact the program and those watching it.

“We’re very excited about hosting the first two rounds of the NIVC here. We love the support, with the fans and the band and the cheerleaders and the dancers. It motivates us to win. We’re really grateful and we’re ready,” Tijerina said.

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