Making an impact

New Braunfels alum Alivia Villarreal was named the 2019 Heartland Conference Newcomer of the Year for Lubbock Christian University. Villarreal helped the Lady Chaps record 32 wins this past season and advance to the conference tournament title game.

Add Alivia Villarreal’s name to the growing list of New Braunfels athletes that are making a serious impact at the next level.

The former Lady Unicorn softball standout burst onto the scene at Lubbock Christian this past year and earned Heartland Conference Newcomer of the Year honors as well as claiming spots on the all-conference first team and all-region squad.

But Villarreal’s spectacular season with the Lady Chaps almost never happened. She said that when she enrolled at Blinn College a few years ago, she nearly gave up the game for good.

“Even going into Blinn, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue playing, but I took a chance and tried out and they only had one spot left,” Villarreal said. “They liked what they saw. That’s kind of what started it, just getting the opportunity to play. I didn’t play much my first year, but when my sophomore year came around, I played a lot more. I felt like what I had to offer was worth something.”

Villarreal’s search for a four-year school ended when she found Lubbock Christian and earned a spot on the team as a junior.

After making the move from third base to first, Villarreal settled in and helped the Lady Chaps embark on a 32-win season that featured a narrow 4-3 defeat against Oklahoma Christian in the title game of the Heartland Conference Tournament.

“We almost made it to regionals, and I feel like if we play our cards right [next] season we can actually make it there,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal shined all season long for Lubbock Christian, as she appeared in all 52 games and posted a batting average of .360 — good for the sixth-best in the entire conference — to go along with a team-high 44 RBIs and five home runs. She also notched 24 walks, which was the eighth most in the conference.

Following the 2019 campaign, Villarreal learned that she had been named the best newcomer in the Heartland Conference, as well as an all-conference first-teamer and her school’s lone Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association (D2CCA) All-South Central Region Team pick.

The New Braunfels graduate said the accolades were a perfect way to cap a stellar year.

“I was really shocked because throughout the year you’re not trying to win any awards — you’re just trying to play as hard as you can,” Villarreal said. “I was just really hoping to fit in mostly where they needed me, so I was open to playing any position that they wanted me to and I didn’t expect to do as good as I did. I just wanted to try to help the team out as much as possible.”

Villarreal will enter the 2020 season as a senior and one of the team leaders. She said the Lady Chaps lost some valuable experience to graduation, but head coach Daren Hays has already begun to refill the talent pool.

“We actually lost the majority of our lineup because they were seniors, and he’s brought a few people in who I think can really help this team,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal still has a younger sister, Alina, who plays for the Lady Unicorns and has one season of high school softball remaining. However, Alivia said she likely won’t be offering her younger sibling any pearls of wisdom pertaining to her athletic career.

“She’s pretty independent, so the advice that I’d give she probably wouldn’t want,” Alivia said. “She’s kind of stubborn that way.”

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