Heading into her freshman season on the University of Texas at El Paso volleyball team, Ava Palm laid out a very specific goal for herself.
"Back in February, I met with my coach in his office to actually go over goals and what was realistic for me," said Palm, a 2020 Bakersfield High School graduate. "The goal that we set was to make the All-Freshman team" in Conference USA.
Palm, an outside hitter, achieved her stated goal Wednesday, when she officially earned all-freshman honors for the league. She is UTEP's first all-freshman player since 2016.
Palm has been a threat all over the court this season. Following an 11-kill performance against Marshall in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament Thursday, she's up to 116 through 16 matches this season.
She also entered Thursday averaging 0.53 aces per set, the 18th-best mark in the entire country, and has recorded double-digit digs five times, achieving a rate of success she'd prepared herself for.
“I was really ready," Palm said. "My entire heart was in it and I just wanted to accomplish big things. I knew that if I was going to get the opportunity I was going to show out on the floor for my team and my coaches to let them know they can trust me and that I am prepared.”
Palm put forth a strong effort in her postseason debut Thursday, helping to give the UTEP program a feeling it hadn't had in over a decade.
She finished with 11 kills and nine digs in a 25-22, 27-25, 25-19 win over Marshall, UTEP's first win in a conference tournament match since all the way back in 2008. Palm was instrumental in a come-from-behind win in the second set, as her late kill closed a 5-0 rally that came after Marshall had pulled ahead 23-19.
Now having won five matches and 15 sets in a row, Palm and her teammates head into a Friday semifinal matchup with Western Kentucky confident they can extend their season further.
"We made it this far, why not win the whole thing?" Palm said.