Arkansas senior outside hitter Pilar Victoria finished the opening weekend of the 2017 season in late August with 42 kills in a pair of Razorback victories.
When the NCAA statistics were released the following Monday, she was leading the country in kills per set — a category Victoria hasn’t relinquished all year heading into the final month of the regular season.
“As a senior, I want to be an All-American,” Victoria said. “That is the dream for every athlete who is a part of the NCAA.”
The 5-foot-11 native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, enters the first weekend of November as the NCAA leader in total kills (512) and kills per set (5.75). She became the 16th Razorback in program history with 1,000 career kills in October.
Victoria reached the milestone in her 52nd match as a Razorback, averaging 5.11 kills per set since arriving in Fayetteville in 2015. After sitting out last season due to injury and watching her team struggle, Victoria has played in all 89 sets to lead her team to a 16-7 overall record.
“It was hard to sit and not be able to be out on the court with my teammates last year,” Victoria said. “At the beginning of the season, I couldn’t practice. Then I had to rehab, practice and lift every morning. It was hard in the beginning to not play in a game, but it got a lot better.”
Entering November, Victoria has pounded double-figure kills in 22 of the team’s 23 matches and registered at least 20 thirteen times. Of the 26 thirty-kill efforts in the NCAA this year, she has four.
It seems Victoria has been ready for the spotlight for a while. She spent this past summer with the Puerto Rico National Team, where she played in the opening weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix. She also helped Puerto Rico to a fifth-place finish at the XIV Pan American Cup in Lima, Peru.
Victoria’s journey hasn’t always been easy. Despite playing for a Texas team which made two NCAA national semifinal appearances, she decided to transfer to Arkansas in 2015 to have an even greater impact.
“It was a great fit for me,” Victoria said. “One of the coaches (Robert Pulliza) was from Puerto Rico which gave me a lot of confidence. Along with teaching me how to become a better volleyball player, the coaches here have taught me so much on how to be a good teammate and person. My style of play has been shifted by my coaches. They have taught me to play clean and to be calm. I now have better body language and it helps me on the court.”
With seven regular season matches remaining, Victoria wants to make it a point for her team to get into the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks host LSU and Texas A&M this weekend.
“Our main goal as a team is to take it one game at a time,” Victoria said. “We understand we are on the bubble and these next few weeks are very important. Our goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament and make a run.”