Cougars outside hitter making presence known in third season
Ingrida Zauere is slowly but surely becoming a Houstonian.
After spending most of her life in her native country of Latvia, Zauere is finally comfortable in her junior year as part of the UH volleyball team.
“My freshman year I was struggling a lot,” Zauere said. “I was far away from home. I didn’t know anyone. But now I like people around me.”
At the outside hitter position, Zauere has been instrumental in helping the Cougars reach fourth place in Conference USA standings with a 7-4 record. She is third on the team in kills, with 192 unanswered smacks over the net.
She credits her unique playing style to her time playing in Europe.
“Everyone is always so amazed how I do my shots,” she said. “It’s like my coach said, ‘It’s a European thing. Europeans always make those crazy shots.’”
Zauere’s experience playing beach volleyball in Europe prepared her American volleyball at UH. She went to a special boarding school for athletes where two-a-days were mandatory.
Zauere’s blend of hard work and natural ability has given her enough opportunities that she said she is grateful.
“I think it depends on how talented you are, and luck,” she said. “I think I’m lucky, and I’m working hard. I have some talent, so altogether it’s coming out well.”
Her efforts paid off as she made it to the world championships in beach volleyball — and suddenly found recruiters from US schools approaching her, requesting she join their respective programs.
At first, Zauere’s only answer was no. After talking it over with family she decided to embark on the new experience. She said there was no specific reason for becoming a Cougar, but that she also does not regret it.
“I just decided to come to Houston, just for no reason,” she said. “It was a good decision, and it was one of my best decisions.”
Her teammates and coaches are glad she settled on UH. As an outside hitter, Zauere collaborates with her team to find the best strategy for any given situation, and executes it effectively — sometimes in mere seconds.
Under the guide of newly established head coach Molly Alvey, the team and Zauere are on track to have a solid remainder of the season.
She said she is comfortable under Alvey’s guidance, and that coaching her style is similar to her previous coaches.
“Her style reminds me of my coaches back home,” Zauere said. “She is really supportive and understanding.”
Along with the coaching staff, Zauere has high regard for her teammates. She said the relationship she has with them has allowed her to flourish.
“I like that they never judge me,” she said. “They are always really supportive. They accept who I am and what I am.”
As the season wraps up, she said she looks forward to having more free time to follow other sports, along with having weekends off. She said she likes following basketball, tennis and football.
During the winter break Zauere will travel home to visit with family in Latvia. When she returns in the spring, she will continue to work on conditioning to prepare for her final season.
After graduation, Zauere wants to remain in the world of athletics.
“I definitely want to be involved in sports,” she said. “I’ll maybe go overseas and play, or maybe get my master’s degree here.”
For now, Zauere is content playing volleyball games, and hopes to master the sport she is passionate about.
“My inspiration comes from my coaches back home,” she said. “Volleyball was fun for me. They never pushed me or made me do something, nothing was mandatory. Everything was fun; I think that was why it became fun. That’s why I started loving it.”