“Defense is a constant battle with the other side. I think it has a lot to do with what a player can do physically, but I believe people overlook the mental aspect.”
That is the mindset of Pima College sophomore libero Aydalis Felix, a Rincon/University graduate, whenever she steps on the volleyball court.
Felix was named the ACCAC defensive player of the week for Sept. 13-19. This week, her coaches and peers acknowledged that accomplishment. They voted her to be Pima’s Chapman Automotive Aztecs Player of the Week.
“It means a lot to be recognized for my defensive accomplishments,” she said, “but it’s more of an honor for my team as a whole. I cannot receive such an honorary award without my team pushing me along and working just as hard by my side.”
Felix started playing volleyball for the Aztecs during the 2019-20 season. Last season, she and her team made program history by being the first volleyball team to make it to the Division II national tournament. Doing so wasn’t easy for this tough team, as they faced a heavy schedule of NJCAA Division I colleges because many Division II programs canceled their season due to COVID-19.
There’s no doubt that Pima’s overall level of competition was tougher compared to this year’s slate, and Felix feels that with plenty of returning players, the Aztecs’ chances look solid down the road.
“I think last year’s competition was very competitive but the ACCAC (Division II) conference we compete in every year is just as stiff,” she said. “The biggest advantage is that a big part of our roster returned this year. We have been through many ups and downs through last year’s season.”
Felix began playing volleyball at the age of 13. She discovered her interest by watching her sister play for club teams.
“Watching her compete at an endless amount of tournaments and play with so much passion inspired me to join,” she said.
She started playing on club teams herself. Felix even played on national teams by the age of 16.
It was her time at club nationals where Felix discovered she wanted to continue to play at the collegiate level while with the Sky Island national team in the Colorado Crossroads National Qualifier.
Felix learned a lot during her time in both high school and club volleyball, crediting her coaches for teaching her lessons that she would never forget.
“Coach Steve Huff taught me that no matter what is going on in life, it all goes away during volleyball,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from many of my coaches: Rita Stubbs, Dan Bithell and Kevin Routeerl. The largest lessons they taught me were to be confident, trust my instincts and always push to be the best.”
“She is one of our team captains,” Bithell, the head coach, said. “As a sophomore, she takes a lot of responsibility as a leader for us; in terms of our volleyball responsibilities as well as our business off the court.”
She works a part-time job at Tilly’s and is involved in the community at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
Felix has made the most of her three years at Pima. Last year, she was named third-team NJCAA Academic All-American.
She wants to continue her athletic career at a university eventually and earn a computer science degree. Until then, she and her team look to make another run at NJCAA Division II nationals. She feels that her team is prepared for it.
“I believe we have proven to a lot of people we are a scrappy team and do not go away even when things are not going our way,” Felix said. “We work hard and have a lot of grit even with the hard competition we have. I think we are more than capable of competing for the region championship if we put all of our correct pieces together.”
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Nathaniel Martinez is an aspiring sports journalist who is a Sahuaro High School graduate and Pima Community College student. He has written for the Aztec Press at Pima. While at Sahuaro, he played football for longtime coach Scott McKee and he wrestled for the Cougars.