WINCHESTER — Shayla Limatoc was recruited by the Umpqua Community College volleyball program as an outside hitter, but her role changed following her freshman season in 2018.

The 19-year-old Limatoc, who’s from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, became the Riverhawks’ libero this season.

A libero is a defensive specialist in volleyball and their main job is to pass the ball and pick up hits in the back row. The libero must wear a contrasting jersey color from their teammates and can’t block or attack the ball when it’s entirely above net height.

“Lacy (Pinard, UCC head coach) put me wherever she needed me at the time (last year) and looking back, I always had a stronger defensive side,” Limatoc said. “I love defense, love digging. When she asked me if I wanted to be a libero, of course I said yes.

“I’ll do everything I need for the team. I’m not really a strong hitter, so being in the back row is better for me.”

Having the 5-foot-7 Limatoc in the back has worked out well for the Riverhawks, who are 16-10 overall and 2-3 in South Region play heading into Friday night’s home match with Rogue.

Limatoc leads the Northwest Athletic Conference in digs per set (6.78) and is tied for first in total digs (373). She’s also ninth in service aces per set (0.58).

“It’s definitely an adrenaline rush when anyone gets a dig,” Limatoc said. “It riles up the team, give them excitement to hit the ball and get that point because someone’s sacrificing themselves. It’s really fun.

“Everyone wants to hit but I like being in the back row, making sure that rallies keep going so I can set up everyone else and we can proceed to do better.”

Limatoc is one of three team captains for the Riverhawks, along with sophomore McKenna Wilson and redshirt freshman Megan Davis.

“It’s hard sometimes,” Limatoc replied, when asked about being a captain. “Having to get everyone in place and making sure everyone’s focused, in school and life.

“Lacy always says I’m the harsher captain. I’m always the one to yell at everyone because I have such high expectations and don’t really have a lot of patience, but I’m working on that. Instead of yelling, I’m easing back and talking to them — being more comforting.”

Limatoc had never been to Oregon before coming to UCC last year from James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach.

“It was kind of scary because I didn’t know anyone at all,” Limatoc said. “But me and Mardi (teammate Lamardia Utupo, who’s from Hawaii) bonded quickly.”

Utupo and freshman Kaitlen Haas are Limatoc’s roommates.

“I like Roseburg, like that it’s small,” Limatoc said. “It’s not too city, which I like a lot. I have no regrets.”

After back-to-back losing seasons, the Riverhawks are hoping to qualify for the NWAC tournament, which will be held Nov. 21-24 at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center. Umpqua needs to finish in the top four in the South Region in order to reach that goal.

The Riverhawks currently sit in sixth place in the league standings with 11 matches remaining.

“I still have really high expectations for us,” Limatoc said. “I’ve seen a lot of our potential get better over the past couple of weekends. Just our energy, positivity and wanting to play for each other has gotten a lot better. Our personalities are so strong together and we mesh well.

“We all really want to go to the NWACs. We’re focused on trying to finish in the least amount of sets as possible. That’s the biggest thing we have to work on — instead of going on a roller coaster throughout the match and going five sets. (The key) is just executing everything.”

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Sports Editor

Tom Eggers is the sports editor for The News-Review. He can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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