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Hispanic Heritage Month: Janeliss Torres-Lopez

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Hispanic Heritage Month: Janeliss Torres-Lopez
The University of Arkansas Athletic Department is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, with a series of stories highlighting several of our student-athletes with Hispanic and Latino American backgrounds. We will be publishing a series of stories each Wednesday during the month-long even letting fans get to know selected student-athletes and how their heritage impacts them. Check back each week for new stories. The goal was clear for Janeliss Torres-Lopez. As a native of Salinas, Puerto Rico, she knew she wanted to play college volleyball in the United States. That goal was made a possibility when she was recruited to join the University of Arkansas volleyball team for the 2009 season. While the goal was clear, the decision to chase the goal was a bit more difficult. “I was torn because I wanted to come here but I wanted to stay (in Puerto Rico),” Torres-Lopez said. “My family helped me a lot with that. They actually wanted me to move away from Puerto Rico and come here. They wanted me to experience more things and mature as a person. My family is a huge part of my life because they are always behind me.” With the support of her family, Torres-Lopez moved to Fayetteville to play for head coach Robert Pulliza who was beginning his second season at Arkansas. During her freshman season, she immediately emerged as a blocking presence for the Razorbacks. She led the team with 0.77 blocks per set and posted at least four total blocks in 10 matches during the 2009 campaign. In addition to the challenges on the court and adjusting to a faster, more physical brand of volleyball that come with playing for a Southeastern Conference team, Torres-Lopez was learning to transition off the court. Being away from her home country and family wasn’t always easy, especially for the then-freshman Razorback. “Wow, things were completely different,” Torres-Lopez said. “It was hard to adjust at the beginning but I knew I had to get used to it. There were times when I wanted to go home but I got used to it and now I love it. It’s even hard for me to go home (to Puerto Rico) sometimes because I love being here.” As a sophomore, she increased her impact on the team with a breakout defensive performance at the Middle Tennessee Invitational. Torres-Lopez made her first start of the season against Alabama-Birmingham and responded with a career-best 11 total blocks. The match marked the first double-digit block effort by a Razorback since the 2007 season. Not surprisingly, Torres-Lopez was inserted into Arkansas’ starting lineup for the rest of the 2010 season. Later that year, she turned in a career-best offensive performance in a home match against South Carolina. She registered a career-high 22 kills in a four-set win over the Gamecocks. “There’s a player from Puerto Rico that I loved to watch when I was little,” Torres-Lopez said. “She didn’t play my position but she was a fighter. She wasn’t the biggest player and wasn’t that tall but she knew the game and is the best volleyball player we ever had in Puerto Rico. Her name is Aury Cruz. She motivates me and I want to play like she did.” Torres-Lopez is six inches shorter than the tallest middle blocker in the Southeastern Conference, and among the group of Razorback middles, she is the shortest. But that hasn’t slowed the senior Razorback who is turning in a breakout year in her final season in Cardinal and White. Through the first 15 matches of the season, Torres-Lopez is hitting .396 which ranks fourth in the SEC and 25th among all players in the NCAA. In the Razorbacks’ last match, she registered a career-high .700 hitting percentage with 15 kills in a four-set win over LSU. Defensively, Torres-Lopez is just as imposing. She is currently fourth in the conference with 1.14 blocks per set and, earlier in the season, was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week (Sept. 24). “I always wanted to play volleyball and come to the states, so the opportunity to do both was great,” Torres-Lopez said. “To have this opportunity to play for the Razorbacks is just a dream come true, and I’m trying to make this experience last forever. I know I will never forget my time here. Being a Razorback is everything for me.”


Sports Category : Volleyball (W)