Lorena Perez, an 18-year-old Richland student, was scouted by an academic company after the gym coach in her hometown in the Canary Islands (off the coast of North Africa) submitted a recording of her playing in a volleyball game. Zelda Smith, Richland’s volleyball coach, saw the video and contacted Perez about studying at Richland and joining the team here.
After doing research about Richland and discussing it with her family, Perez set out for Dallas, traveling from her hometown through Madrid, then landing in Dallas on July 26 after a 10-hour flight. She was picked up by Smith, introduced to her new teammates and has become a valuable part of the team.
Perez has had a passion for volleyball since she was 6. Making her mark as a two-year member of Spain’s National Volleyball Team and traveling to Soria, Spain, for the Western European Volleyball Zonal Association competition (WEVZA) at 14, she played against countries like Italy, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands. Perez has proven that volleyball is more than a sport; it is a lifestyle.
“The best years of my volleyball life was at WEVZA,” Perez said. “My team had such a strict routine. We would wake up early, eat breakfast, practice four to five hours every day, eat dinner and go to sleep.”
Perez plays left-front-outside hitter for Richland and played in the conference championships. She has accumulated many medals throughout her career including 1st Team All-Conference, All Region V and All-American Nominee. She works on improving her skills by checking statistics and setting goals for herself with constant practice.
Perez recently held the fifth position in the state of Texas. She hopes to improve at the sport and possibly be invited to universities that offer more opportunities. She prefers, however, not to make a career out of it. Perez plans to finish her science degree in biology. She intends to put her studies first and play volleyball as a hobby to stay active.
Richland was her choice of colleges because she enjoys the peaceful environment.
“Richland is very small and quiet. It has a good team and it is a good distance from where I stay. I am very comfortable here.” Perez said.
The school also gives her a chance to improve her English language skills. She is starting with beginning English classes rather than by placement exam like other colleges do.
“I like the fact that I can improve my English first rather than jump into college courses. That was one thing I noticed about Richland. English is not my primary language, so it is important for me to learn it so it can be easy living here. I improve my English first, then I will find it easier to take more advanced courses. I was placed in Level 2 English and I passed with an A,” said Perez. “My English is much better now.”
Perez said adjusting to a different language and culture was not easy at first. She recalled the fear she felt as she got lost in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport when she arrived in Dallas. Daily communication was an issue at first, but she adjusted with the help of her teammates and friends.
“Everyone is very helpful, but I try to learn many things by myself and be independent. I live with a few of my teammates and they teach me everything now,” she said.
Now that volleyball season is over, Perez plans to return to Spain for the holidays and reunite with family. She will return to Dallas in January for another volleyball season.