Oklahoma Baptist University volleyball player Rachel Aguilar never had an in-person tryout at the school, but the former Polk State College player made quite an impact with the Bison this past season, thanks to her days as an Eagle.
Despite feeling uncomfortable playing at a new school in a new state, the international business major from Venezuela earned the Sooner Athletic Conference's Player of the Week award and helped her team win its third consecutive conference championship, earning a bid to play in the NAIA National championships.
According to Oklahoma Baptist coach Anna Howle, Aguilar, a junior setter, has been a productive addition to her squad since she arrived this past summer.
Unable to meet and watch Aguilar in person prior to the season, Howle had only seen on film of the Polk recruit before signing her.
"I wanted a setter who defends well and she does," Howle said. "That was one of the things I really liked about her."
Howle appreciated the intangibles Aguilar brings to the team.
"She works hard in practice and connects pretty well with the team," said Howle of Aguilar. "She really wants to get better and encourages her other teammates and has done a really good job."
When Aguilar arrived at Oklahoma Baptist, she found the team had another junior setter, but she was prepared, thanks to Polk State coach German Del Valle.
"I feel like German taught me so much and I was a lot better than when I arrived at Polk," she said of her beginnings at Oklahoma Baptist. "I felt like it was really hard, but I knew I could do it."
Aguilar played so well early in the season she earned Sooner Athletic Conference Setter of the Week in August for her play in a tournament.
She tallied 67 assists in four games and 18 assists in a match against Texas College.
"I was so excited," she said.
Aguilar is one of the team's two setters during matches, meaning she often has her hands on the ball, which is fine with Howle.
"She's definitely improved, definitely in setting the middles," said Howle. "We definitely count on her, especially in the last month. She's developed into a player who can run the court consistently. And, she serves well. She's done a lot of good things in the last couple of weeks."
Aguilar's improvement helped the Bison go 16-0 and capture its third Sooner Athletic Conference title while extending its conference-winning streak to three seasons.
Aguilar was happy to compete in the NAIA National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa last month. It was the first time she played in any national tournament.
"It was really fun and I was really happy to go," she said. "I wasn't nervous at all. I was so excited and pumped to play every day. It's such a dream to go to nationals."
The Polk State College Eagles continued its march to excellence this fall, attending the state tournament in November for the third year in a row, taking fifth overall.
The Eagles finished the season ranked 17th in the country.