With the volleyball team losing All-Conference outside hitter Valerie Valerian prior to this spring, upperclassmen outside hitters like senior Barbara Martin and junior Rhett Robinson have stepped into larger roles. Valerian’s departure has also given some underclassmen an opportunity to contribute and freshman outside hitter Truli Levy has been one player to do so.
After appearing in 20 sets through her first nine matches for North Texas (4-6, 1-3 Conference USA), Levy has totaled 26 kills and eight blocks. Her top performances have come against the University of Texas at Arlington (eight kills and two digs) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (seven kills and six blocks). In North Texas’ 3-0 win over Texas-Arlington, Levy’s eight kills were third-most on the team behind Robinson (15 kills) and Martin (10 kills).
Since Levy joined the team in the fall, Martin said she has been struck by her energy and outgoing personality off the court. Martin also said she has tried to help Levy adjust to playing collegiate volleyball and has been impressed with her work ethic and jumping ability.
“She is a hard worker,” Martin said. “She always wants to make sure she’s doing what’s right and is always coming to me with questions like, “Am I doing this right? What can I do better? How can I improve?” When I do tell her, she takes it in and the next play or the next ball, she implements it. She’s a great little learner.”
Having grown up in Gonzales, Louisiana, Levy is one of three players on the volleyball team originally from outside of Texas along with sophomore defensive specialist Aleeyah Galdeira and freshman setter Pua Beazley who are both from Hawaii.
Track was her main sport growing up and Levy thought it would be her future until discovering she had shin splints. She shifted her focus to volleyball and began playing the sport during her freshman year of high school, a relatively late start compared to other high-level players.
“I wasn’t anywhere near where I am now, it was pretty new for me,”Levy said. “I just thought ‘Hey, why not?’ Unfortunately, I realized that I would want to continue playing at the end of [my] sophomore year. That’s when it was hard to actually get looked at for volleyball and trying to go to college, at that age. It was tough because a lot of schools were done with their roster for the class of 2020 at the time, so it was really hard trying to find a school.”
During her late start to volleyball, Levy also began playing for a club team. She played in tournaments and showcases in surrounding states and did not garner very much attention from college programs. North Texas was one of a few schools to show interest in her after seeing her play at one of those showcases.
“She had contacted us early in the process and she will tell you this, we kind of just bypassed her initially,” Head coach Andrew Palileo said. “Then, we saw her at a showcase and we liked her there, so she gives us a hard time about that. […] [We] got a chance to talk to her and bring her up for a visit and she really liked it.”
Since joining North Texas in the fall, Levy’s found herself adjusting to the new competition level.
“[The transition] has been very tough,” Levy said. “Looking at everyone, knowing how they’ve been playing since they were young and I’m still getting the hang of what everyone’s learned already. My teammates are very, very helpful when it comes to that, they are more than willing to help me stay after [practice] or come before if I need any help with anything. It’s been tough but I know it can definitely be accomplished with them by my side.”
Compared to the other outside hitters on the team, Levy is the shortest of the group at 5-foot-10. Palileo said she makes up for what can be a height disadvantage with her jumping ability.
“She is a little shorter, but she can get off the floor,” Palileo said. “She just needs to learn to use that skillset of hers, of jumping, to benefit her and not put her in situations where she’s too early. A lot of times when jumpers aren’t quite there yet, they’re just too early all the time. She just needs to match up her skillset with experience on how to use her jump to her advantage.”
After primarily playing middle blocker in high school, Levy has moved to outside hitter with the Mean Green. She said switching between the two positions has been a challenge as well, but she sees it as a positive.
“I have to look at it in a positive way, at least I’m able to move around,” Levy said. “I think it’s pretty fun knowing I can move around […] I just have to go in extra and work on certain things because in practice I might be in one [position], but I know that I’m able to do the others, so I have to work on the others outside of practice.”
Featured Image: Freshmen outside hitter Truli Levy returns a serve during practice on Feb. 21, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas