Bustillos signs to play volleyball at UTEP

Brianna Bustillos signs her LOI to play at UTEP next season.

NMMI Sports Press

Brianna Bustillos passes a ball to the setter in a game earlier in 2017.

Bronco volleyball player Briana Bustillos won’t be going far from home to continue her college career, and that’s just the way she likes it.

“I’m a homebody,” the soft-spoken libero/defensive specialist said. “I love being at home, and that helped me choose UTEP.”

The University of Texas at El Paso, who she’ll play for as a junior, is just steps away from Chamberino, where her family lives, and Gadsden High School, where she graduated. It’s not unfamiliar territory.

“Back in high school, I just went to the [UTEP] gym and back for tournaments. But I went on a visit this time and really saw the campus. It’s comfortable and just felt more like home,” the sophomore said.

Bustillos was a walk-on with Miner rival New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, but came to NMMI as a sophomore, where she helped the Broncos earn a third-place national finish last November.

“I think Bree definitely had the ability to play at the Division I level right out of high school,” said Institute coach Shelby Forchtner. “I think this was a good place for her to just get back to all the things she was talking about: the love of the game; the basics; the communication. Sometimes you can lose your passion for something really easily in a small amount of time because of your surroundings or because of things that you’re doing or because of other people. I think she just really needed to get back to all of those things that were meaningful to her.”

Bustillos agrees NMMI was a big plus for her.

Brianna Bustillos poses for a head shot in 2017.

“The main thing I learned from here is confidence and discipline,” she said. “I’ve been so shy all my life, and playing volleyball I’ve been really quiet. Once in a while I scream a little bit, but here it’s really just brought out the player in me: getting to talk to people; my communications skills; talking to everybody; being in the weight room; just mentally focused. Everything has grown, physically and mentally.”

Forchtner thinks Bustillos will make a big impact as soon as she gets to the Conference USA school.

“She’s probably the best defender and the best person we have in serve-receive right now,” the coach said. “So UTEP is kind of getting a steal in this kid, because I think she’s going to be able to go in there and take over their defense fairly quickly. It’s going to be fun it watch that.”

“She’s a very, very, very well-rounded athlete. If Bree was two or three inches taller, she’d be a six-rotation stud. Even now, at her height, she can get out there and swing just as well as some of our outside hitters. It’s pretty impressive to watch her.”

In her solo year at NMMI, Bustillos saw action in 38 matches and 134 sets, picking up 188 digs (1.40 digs/set) and registering 11 assists.

Brianna Bustillos serves during a game in 2017.

At UTEP, she’ll be studying biology with an eye on working in the field of radiology, and playing on a team she said she feels very comfortable with.

The girls, I played with two of them in club before, so they’re really good friends of mine, and the rest of the girls are really caring. They came off really friendly from the very start, so I’m excited to be playing with them.”

But she also had nothing but praise for everyone at NMMI, extending thanks all around.

“Well, one, the coaches, because without them I wouldn’t be here and getting a second chance to play volleyball,” she said. “And second, the girls, because I feel like they’ve made me love the game even more. And third, the strength and conditioning coaches, because of course they made me grow mentally and they helped me focus so much and just grow as a player on the court as well.”

 

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