Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 24, 2023

Torres makes big impact in short window for Lady Vols

Yelianiz Torres is nearly immune to the purple and black spots dotting her body. They have become as ordinary as the clothes she wears every day.

It comes with the territory for the University of Tennessee libero. Throwing her body around the volleyball court to dig balls usually leaves marks.

“During the game with the adrenaline, I don’t feel a thing,” Torres says. “But sometimes people will ask, ‘How did you get that bruise?’ I didn’t even notice it. I am guessing it was volleyball.”

Torres’ defensive prowess has helped elevate the No. 8 Lady Vols into one the country’s top teams this season.

The Puerto Rico native is a graduate transfer from Bowling Green University. Although she’s only spent one season at UT, she’s made memories that will last a lifetime.

Torres was honored this week during Senior Night, and her family was there to witness the tribute. Her parents are visiting Knoxville and will get to spend Thanksgiving with her Thursday and celebrate her father’s birthday Friday.

“It’s so special. I haven’t spent the last three Thanksgivings with them, so I am excited to do this this year,” Torres says. “They haven’t met my teammates or coaches yet, so I am excited for that as well.”

The 5-foot-7 Torres entered the week ranked third in the SEC in digs per set (4.05). She’s produced double-digit digs in 20 matches this season, with a high of 30 against Arkansas last month, when she was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice.

“I think the most important thing she has done for us is bring stability to our passing unit as such a reliable serve receiver all year long, which I think has helped our offense be as good as it is,” UT head coach Eve Rackham Watt says. “I think throughout the season she has gotten better and better as a floor defender, and in the last couple of weeks she has really taken a jump. In some really big matches, she’s played great.”

Torres had offers to play at other schools once she decided to enter the transfer portal and use her fifth season of eligibility the NCAA granted because of the pandemic. But after speaking with Rackham Watt and learning more about the program, Torres was sold on becoming a Lady Vol.

“I just liked Tennessee because of the culture,” says Torres, a three-time academic all-conference selection who is pursuing her master’s degree in management and human resources. “My first call with Eve felt more familiar than speaking to a coach, which I really liked. Plus, Tennessee is a great school for what I wanted to study, and all the athletic teams are very good.”

Torres has made the transition appear seamless this season. She credits that to her decision to arrive at Tennessee last spring.

“I had those five months to get used to the team and to the level of volleyball, which was different to the conference I was in,” she says. “It wasn’t easy, but those five months before the season really prepared me.”

Torres loves the responsibility that comes with being a libero and spearheading the defense on the court. She grew up playing the position until she was moved to outside hitter as a senior in high school when a teammate was injured. Bowling Green recruited her as an outside but switched her back to defensive specialist after her freshman season.

Although she was nervous about taking a big jump in competition at the SEC level, Torres worries haven’t transpired.

“I am not pressured just because I have amazing teammates next to me to help me a lot,” she says. “It takes a little bit of the weight off my shoulders, which helps me perform better.”

The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for Torres. She still has big goals in mind, like helping UT make a deep run in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Once the season is finally complete and she can allow her bruises to heal, Torres will have time to better process all the changes that have occurred.

“I think if I had to describe this whole experience in one word it would be shocking, just because I never thought I would be at this level. I didn’t think I would end up at Tennessee and be among the best teams in the country,” she says. “It’s shocking, but also amazing and I am very grateful I spent at least one year here. I wish I could have spent more, but I am grateful I got a year and got an amazing year, not just any year.”