A disappointing finish to her collegiate volleyball career does not mean the end of volleyball for Amber Aguiar.
The Skyview High School graduate was named Northwest Conference Libero of the Year for the second time in the two seasons she played that position at Pacific Lutheran University.
Regular season success again did not continue into the postseason for the Lutes, who were 81-23 during Aguiar’s career and won or shared the last three conference championships, but had their season again end in the opening round of NCAA Division III regionals.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be able to play for a program like PLU that’s not only been successful when you look at the record, but it’s truly been a program that is so memorable because of the great coaching staff and the great group of girls who I was able to play with,” Aguiar said. “It’s definitely sad — bitter — that we didn’t go as far as we’d hoped this year, but I’m still involved in volleyball.”
Aguiar is coaching club volleyball and playing in “Reverse 4s” co-ed matches on hard court, sand and grass surfaces while finishing her degree. She is on track to graduate in May with a degree in social work and psychology, and hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a Master of Social Work degree.
While her All-NWC and Libero of the Year honors are nice, Aguiar said, those sort of individual honors are not what matters most to her.
“It’s definitely an accomplishment that I’m extremely proud of, but to me, the most important thing is our team’s success,” she said. “Just the fact that we’ve won three of the past four conference titles since I’ve been at PLU has been my proudest accomplishment — being a part of that legacy.”
PLU was the No. 2 seed in the NCAA-III West Regional, but the Lutes’ season ended in a first-round upset with a 25-18, 25-27, 25-23, 25-19 loss to No. 7 seed Colorado College.
The Lutes, who shared the NWC title with Whitworth, finished with the best record of Aguiar’s four seasons at 21-5. This season was PLU’s 10th overall NCAA postseason appearance, and the eighth in the last nine seasons, but the Lutes have not won a match at regionals since 2004.
“It stings because even though we won the conference title the past years, we’ve also been eliminated in the first round the past four years,” Aguiar said. “That’s really my only bitter aspect of my experience at PLU. Even though we didn’t quite get there, I’m still proud of how we fought, especially in that regional game. Despite losing, we gave it our all.”
Aguiar said this year’s Lutes team was different than the previous three because it was more defensively oriented than before.
Defense is what the libero position is all about, of course, and as a senior, the 5-foot-5 Aguiar broke her own PLU records for total digs and digs per set. She finished with 642 digs and a rate of 7.13 per set, surpassing her junior season marks of 589 and 6.20, respectively. Her 1,710 total career digs place her third in PLU history. Rachelle Snowdon’s school record is 1,766.
Aguiar’s 7.13 digs per set this season leads NCAA Division III going into the national quarterfinals this week. According to the NCAA statistics website, only one other player in the top 50 in that category has not yet completed her season: Megan Coleman of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is 16th at 5.89 digs a set.
“I would say that I was a better overall player this year, especially being one of the captains,” Aguiar said. “I feel like that gave me a position of leadership, and I think that gave me the confidence to really give it my all my senior year. At this point, I feel like I did all I could and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”