FEATURE: Valdes Impresses as a Freshman for The Woodlands
Waiting to be called into the hall with the anticipation of finding out which team she would start the season with rising, Julieta Valdes finally heard her name.
The freshman walked in, surrounded by coaches to be told that she hadn't made any of the volleyball teams at The Woodlands.
Valdes began to cry before the coaches finally gave in to what in the end was a cruel joke, only to tell her she had indeed made the varsity team as a freshman.
"I was really shocked," Valdes said. "I went out to celebrate and get crepes afterwards. I was like 'we made it guys'.
"It was the goal; I knew I had a shot but it's The Woodlands and they're known for being really tough both academically and athletically. I knew it was going to be tough to make it, so that's why I was so nervous and a 50-50."
As the 2019 season began for The Woodlands, Terri Wade would carry two freshmen – Valdes and setter Claire Dewine - on her opening roster.
In the opening week, which included nine matches and eight being played at the ultra-competitive John Turner Classic in Pearland, Valdes was thrown into the fire.
The freshman didn't waver.
Valdes finished with 38 kills in the tournament and was named to the All-Tournament team at the end.
"I just saw confidence," Wade said. "You usually will put a freshman out there, they will look a little scared, a little timid, they don't go for balls when they have the potential. She doesn't really have that factor; she still wants the ball and demands the ball. She proves that on the court."
The instant comparison Wade and others on the team have made is between Valdes and senior LSU-commit Dylan Maberry.
"A lot of times I look up and I think it is Dylan," Wade said with a laugh. "They look alike, they play aggressive. So, it's exciting. Dylan was right there her freshman year too. I see a whole lot of potential for her."
Maberry, who was the John Turner Classic MVP, and Valdes stand at nearly the same height, both have dark hair and, of course, can fly out of the gym and hammer the ball.
"It's awesome, we lost an outside hitter and Julieta coming in means everything," Maberry said. "She's already is so good and has so much potential. She's a Rockstar."
Before Valdes even stepped foot onto campus, Wade already knew of the talent coming up the pipe.
At a team camp, prior to the team tryouts, Wade was able to move her around different courts and see what she could do against different age levels.
Once Valdes was placed with the varsity group, she stood out.
"She didn't just play with them, she challenged them," Wade said. "I knew she would be a top player."
Valdes has started off her varsity career with a bang – 47 kills in the first nine matches, which is second on the team only to Maberry – and she knows she has more to learn as the year goes on.
"Probably to just keep going and that I'm not going to always be the go-to that I am in club since the age difference and everybody's more competitive here," Valdes said about what she learned the first week. "Just keep fighting and for the team and it doesn't have to be centered around me."
So, how good can Valdes be by the end of her freshman year?
"I think she'll be that second player that can come in just like Dylan and give us offense all around the court," Wade said.