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New Los Alamos Hilltopper head volleyball coach Robin Reynolds was as surprised as anyone when he heard the news.
Attending a conference at the University of New Mexico, Lobo head coach Jeff Nelson announced that a former Hilltopper would be receiving a roster spot for the next year.
“The coach announced that Danielle had made it through tryouts,” Reynolds said. “He said that she needed to start coming to practices regularly, because she’s going to be on the team.”
The player in question was Danielle Ortiz, one of the top defensive players in Class 4A during her career with the Hilltoppers.
Ortiz, Los Alamos’ standout libero, will join the Lobos as a walk-on for the 2013 season.
Before she does that, however, she said she’s got a lot to work on, specifically getting back in playing shape.
“This week I just started and I’m really sore,” Ortiz said. “I started lifting weights and running. I have to keep that up until we start practice. It’s hard work, but it’ll be worth it.”
Oritz got on UNM’s radar earlier in her career. She played for a club volleyball team that was run partially by members of the Lobo coaching staff.
During her senior year with Los Alamos, Ortiz posted quality numbers. She was credited with 436 digs in 78 sets played (a 5.59 per set average) and committed just 41 errors in more than 1,200 service-receive chances.
Following the season, in which Los Alamos won its fifth consecutive 2-4A title and advanced to its third straight Class 4A semifinal, Ortiz was named to the North 4A-5A All-Star team and will play her final prep match July 29 in Albuquerque.
She was offered a chance to play for Trinity University, a Division III school in San Antonio, Texas, but opted not to take the offer.
“That was my main other option, but I decided to stay close to home,” Ortiz said. “That worked out perfectly.”
A Lobo assistant coach contacted her near the end of April to see if she was interested in the volleyball program. Ortiz, who was planning on attending UNM anyway, jumped at the chance.
UNM has worked hard in recent years to keep in-state talent on the roster. In 2012, the Lobos had five in-state roster players — including former Pojoaque Valley standout Miquella Lovato and former Roswell star Chantelle Riddle — and may have as many as four more heading into the 2013 season.
The Lobos finished 20-13 on the 2012 season, 7-9 in the Mountain West.
Ortiz will have a busy summer. She’s planning a trip to Europe in June, but will be back to help the Lobos with their summer camps in July.
And while she said her schedule will keep her hopping until the Lobos open up in the fall, she can’t wait for the challenge.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “I thought my volleyball career was over. It was an unexpected surprise. I always wanted to play volleyball in college and I remember going to UNM camps since I was in fifth grade. I always looked up to them and now I can play for them.”