Solano thriving in new role for Red Raiders
The transition from high school to the college game can be difficult for many athletes in any sport.
It’s a time consuming lifestyle that rarely benefits reward no less than two to three years down an impatient road.
However, that’s hardly been the case for Texas Tech junior Emerson Solano.
Solano was able to make the transition look like a breeze for the Red Raiders volleyball program. Since the day she stepped on campus in the fall of 2017, the Amarillo High graduate has been a rising star at Texas Tech.
“I wasnt sure what I was getting into when I got to Texas Tech,” Solano said. “Tech was a rebuilding program, and I really didn’t expect to as much as I did as a freshman. I was able to play at my best, and stepped up.”
Solano played in 29 games as a freshman with five starts, earning a place on the All-Big 12 rookie team.
As a sophomore, her role increased, starting in 30 matches while earning a nod as a first team All-Big 12 academic selection.
Fourth-year Red Raiders volleyball coach Tony Graystone knows about Texas Panhandle talent, coaching at West Texas A&M from 1999-2008. In those nine years he won 315 games at WT, and is still the program’s all-time wins leader.
Graystone says what Solano is accomplishing for his team now, is not surprising in the least.
“Emerson is a phenomenal athlete, Graystone said. “She has gotten so much better over time. We love her personality and the leader she’s grown into. She’s a great teammate.”
Being a great teammate and doing what’s best has never been an issue for Solano.
Last season, when Tech needed defensive help, Graystone asked if Solano was willing to move to the Libero position.
The one position, Solano never played in her entire career. The 5-foot-7 talent rose to the challenge, finishing second in the Big 12 with 4.06 digs per set, and 442 digs on the year.
“I never expected to be playing Libero,” Solano said. “I have a lot of respect for anyone who plays it. It’s a mental position, but I love playing defense. I loved it when I was a six rotation player.”
Graystone echoed Solano’s comment.
“She was a little undersized to be a hitter in the Big 12, said Graystone, who is 46-49 at Texas Tech in three seasons. She’s taken this Libero job and ran with it. She wore the Libero jersey every match last year. Now, she’e a key returner and has earned everyone’s trust.”
Solano has worked herself into a leader for the Red Raiders. Over the summer, she was named as one of the captains for the upcoming 2019 season.
“It means a ton to me,” Solano said. “I was able to show who I am as a person, and that I want to help others and encourage. We’re a captain circle. We’re there to work together. But I’m a light hearted leader because I still feel like I’m a freshman and shouln’t have a voice.”
Texas Tech opens the season against VCU on Aug. 30, at the Sports Imports Koehl Classic in Columbus, Ohio.