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UTSA’s volleyball team is poised to have a great season, and senior middle hitter Kylie Schott is one player who has led the charge to ensure they start off strong. The team’s performance at the Bearkat Invitational over the opening weekend of the season was outright dominant, and Schott’s play in particular garnered well-deserved attention.

With 16 blocks and a whopping .532 hitting percentage in the team’s four wins, she earned the Bearkat Invitational’s MVP honors, in addition to being recognized as Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Week.

“It’s great, because it shows that we were here working out together all summer,” Schott said of the team’s commanding start. “It helped us get that bond together before the season even began…when the season started, we already knew what we were supposed to do; we weren’t trying to figure it out.”

The Roadrunners began this past weekend’s tournament in San Marcos with a surprising 3-2 loss to the Texas State Bobcats. Despite the early loss, the Roadrunners rebounded in decisive fashion. Over the next two days, they earned two wins, holding both Indiana and Texas Southern below .100 in hitting percentage.

This year’s volleyball team is one with a great deal of both talent and experience, which comes with increasing expectations. But having so much talent on the roster also means that practices are more demanding, which Schott believes is a big factor in player development and the ability to play a structured team game.

“It’s awesome to have so much talent on one team. For one, it’s really hard in practice to play against each other. But in a game, it’s really great because all that talent is on one side. So when we play somebody else, we’re not worried…because we know how we play, and we play against each other every day. That’s the best competition you can have.”

On a team with a strong roster full of experienced players, it can be tough for first-year members to crack the lineup, let alone contribute to the team’s success. But those who do make the team benefit from playing alongside veterans from whom they can learn.

A few of the Roadrunners’ rookies got right to it during the Bearkat Invitational, where three first-year players got to play. Schott praised the younger players’ professionalism and contribution to the team.

“They did a great job”, Schott said of Shelby Williams, Antonela Jularic and Laura Cruz, the first-year players who saw action during opening weekend. “I think they came in like they weren’t even freshmen…like they knew what they were supposed to do.”

This November, UTSA will host its first Conference USA Volleyball Championship, which will also be the first Conference USA championship of any kind to be hosted by the school. Between the depth of experience on this team’s roster, the competitiveness it has shown already, and the natural exposure that will come from hosting the championship tournament, there will be plenty of opportunities to embrace the spotlight. Kylie Schott seems to believe that the team is ready to set itself apart from the rest of the conference.

“Last year, we shared the title…this year, we set goals at the beginning of the season and we said, ‘no sharing.’ So we don’t want to share our title, we want to keep it going for a third year strong…and we’re going to put in even more work this year to take the next title.”

That can include working on the team’s communication, their systems, responding to different competitive situations, or sticking around after practice to help each other with fundamentals. That work may even involve dropping together to the gym floor to clean up the excess moisture that collects because their practice time starts hours before the gym’s air conditioning even kicks in.

“We just need to come in every day, put in work, work, work and then even more work…more than anybody else…more than ever before. We really just need to be all in, all the time…every play, every day.”

That intensity and work ethic, combined with the right balance of inward focus and outside pressure, are necessary parts of an organizational mentality that allows teams to build something great. If leaders like Kylie Schott buy into the philosophy, they can pass their habits down to the younger classes and continue the pattern of winning.

“We’re just gonna do ‘us’, not worry about what’s on the other side of the net. Just work on our system, and get better.”

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