Daniela Álvarez Brings Force to Beach Volleyball Team

The 6-foot-2 sophomore plays for the national team in her native Spain. Now she calls Fort Worth home.

Courtesy of TCU Athletics

Daniela Álvarez Brings Force to Beach Volleyball Team

The 6-foot-2 sophomore plays for the national team in her native Spain. Now she calls Fort Worth home.

You’ve played beach volleyball on four continents. Of all the places you could have gone to college to play, you chose TCU. How did you make that decision?

I always wanted to come to the States to study and play my sport here. Since I was 8 or 9 years old, I knew that I wanted to come here and study for my college degree. 

But I always thought that it was going to be tennis. There are a lot of Spaniards who come to the United States to study and play tennis. Everything changed in 2016. When I quit tennis and I started playing volleyball, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to come here on a scholarship or something. In 2016, coach Hector Gutierrez contacted me. I thought it was a nice idea. I always wanted this.

I met Hector two months before signing. He talked to me, but I also knew one of the girls. I met her at the Youth Olympics. She really showed me how the campus and the community and the team was. I really liked it. Right now I’m super happy I chose TCU. I didn’t have an official visit before signing; I had it after signing. Everything they told me before signing, it was true.

Why did you switch from tennis to volleyball?

My high school is next to a club that had all these sports. When I played tennis, some of my classmates were playing indoor volleyball there, and they won the national indoor volleyball championship. They told me, “You should come and practice with us and see if you like it or not.” I decided I wanted to try and if I didn’t like it, I would come back to tennis, to my hometown. I went to live with them in Lorca, Spain [500 miles away]. I played in the national championship for beach volleyball and I liked it.

It’s all crazy. Two or three girls didn’t want to do the national championship because the city where the training centers are is pretty far from everything. They didn’t want to leave their family and everything. It was a lot of luck: If one of those girls had said yes, I wouldn’t be playing beach volleyball right now.

The last game I played in tennis was against Mercedes Aristegui and she plays for TCU Tennis, so maybe I would be here playing tennis.

You’ve played in championships representing Spain. What does it feel like to represent your country?

I never expected that, especially not in volleyball. The fact that you can practice the whole year with the best players of Spain and then you go and represent your country, I think it’s super.

Last year representing TCU was such a good feeling, too. It’s just nice.

In one of those championships, you battled Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings. What was that like?

I was in China. We were super happy because we classified to make the main draw in a really good tournament. When we saw the main draw, and we saw Kerri’s name, we said, “OK, how do we have to analyze this game? Kerri has three Olympic gold medals and one bronze. How do you analyze that player?”

Do you think that you will ever play in the Olympics?

I hope so. That’s my goal.

You and your playing partner, Tania Moreno Mateeva, are both from Spain. Are you two a package deal? 

I’m a sophomore and she’s a freshman, but we wanted to go to the same college. Back in Spain, we played a lot of international tournaments together. I played with her in China.

What is it like playing in a paired sport?

It was pretty hard for me at first because I came from tennis, an individual sport. I was super used to being on my own: If I fail, yes, it’s all myself. I’m having trouble with that because I have to rely on my partner.

Daniela Alvarez lunges for a volleyball in a sand court

Daniela Álvarez was ranked the second-best amateur beach volleyball player in her native Spain. Courtesy of TCU Athletics

I used to live with Tania and with other girls on the Spanish team. We were like a family. We were like siblings because we spent the whole day together. 

The first year at TCU, I lived in Moncrief, right next to the courts. The whole year I was around teammates 24 hours a day. When I’m on the court with any of those girls, it helps that we are super friends outside the court and we can tell each other anything we need. One of the most important things is trusting your partner; you have to trust her, and she has to trust you. You can have a bad day outside the court, but inside the court you’re working. It doesn’t matter if you agree with her outside the court, but inside you have the same goal, trust for your partner and work for the same goal.

I just want to work hard, set goals as a team and do them. I want to keep learning as a person and have fun. That’s the main thing. 

I think we have a really good team, and our values are really good.

If you could play anywhere, where would you play?

Well, I’ve never represented Spain in Spain. That’s one thing that I really want to do. In June 2020 I was going to play in the World University Beach Volleyball Championship in Malaga, Spain, but they canceled it. 

Do you like sand and the beach?

I used to be so much more of a swimming pool girl than beach. My house in Spain is five minutes walking to the nearest beach. I probably went once a year. I only went to the swimming pool at my tennis club. I remember the first beach volleyball practice I was all full of sand and I didn’t like it. Now I love the beach and the ocean — it really relaxes me. I love swimming in the ocean and watching the sunset. That’s one of my favorite things.

You know the buttons on the phone? Mine never work because they get sand in them. I just got used to it.

What are the coaches doing to prepare you as an athlete?

TCU Beach Volleyball #13 Daniela Alvarez photographed in Fort Worth, Texas on September 4, 2019. (Photo/Sharon Ellman)

Daniela Alvarez, a native of Spain, is a key member of the TCU Beach Volleyball team. Courtesy of TCU Athletics | Photo by Sharon Ellman

Right now my English is not good, but last year it was even worse. I had bad times speaking with some of the girls because they couldn’t understand me. I just got so frustrated. Hector [Gutierrez, head coach], Majo [Orellana, assistant coach] and Mandi [Orellana, graduate assistant] helped me a lot with my English. I think the fact that I could communicate with them in Spanish made everything so much easier. Everything is different here in the United States. And also, I’ve never been part of a team. They helped teach me how to be on a team.

You support your fellow TCU athletes — you go to football games, you go to basketball games, you hang out with the equestrian team horses. What is your favorite sport at TCU?

I had never watched a football game or a baseball game before coming here. I had seen basketball on TV but never in person. I really enjoy going to see all of my friends who are athletes, and we cheer for each other. I couldn’t choose one sport because I just like to go support my friends on those teams.

It’s easy for fans to separate athletes by what sport they play in. But you see each other all the time in the weight room, at meal time — do you feel like there’s a community of student-athletes at TCU?

My first semester here, we had two classes that were for international students whose first language wasn’t English. I got super close to some athletes from Europe or from other places. We had two hours or more a day together in the same class. There were just nine students in the class, so we got really close. I really love hanging out with them. I am so grateful I had that class.

It’s crazy when TCU student-athletes know athletes I know through international tournaments. It’s super weird. The world is really big, but it’s really small.

What’s something strange you’ve noticed about Texas?

The cowboy boots! The first football game I went to I saw girls wearing cowboy boots. They look good in them, but I don’t see myself wearing them.

How’s the food here?

I’m super weird with the food. I don’t really like anything. I don’t really try new things. So I don’t know. The food in Spain is so much better than it is here. I’m sorry. The fruit and the vegetables here have no flavor.

I saw your social media post over the summer that said you’re homesick for the Fort. Has Fort Worth become a home for you?

I’m going to spend four years here. I think all the students and teammates are my friends. I felt like I was coming home after I was in Spain. I am super happy here. I wanted to come back and see my friends.