Engle and Kisner: California and Texas under one roof
The states of Texas and California have always maintained a friendly rivalry. One sees barbecue, boots and football as necessities in life, while the other gives the world Hollywood, sunny beaches and the "Governator."
Despite their differences, Californians and Texans actually have a lot in common. Both are usually convinced of their superiority over the other, and few of its natives can be convinced otherwise. They also possess a laid-back style, frenzied pride for their native soils and a fondness for Rose Bowls.
The University of Texas volleyball team combines a charming mix of West Coast and Texas talent, boasting four players from California and another five from Texas. Freshmen Ashley Engle and Heather Kisner, two new additions to the UT volleyball team, bring the Lone Star state and the Golden State together not only as teammates, but also as roommates.
As a defensive specialist and liberal arts major, Heather Kisner hails from outside the Houston area in Sugar Land, Texas, while setter and right-side hitter Ashley Engle comes from a city in Orange County called Yorba Linda.
"We get along really well," said Kisner. "We're both very chill and easygoing. I got her to say 'y'all' the other day, which was pretty impressive."
"It was kind of funny because when we first moved in, we weren't really ourselves. We were both a little more introverted and agreeable," Engle, the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year, said. "Now we're both completely ourselves and really goofy. I'm such a dork, and I have a blast with her."
The two roommates are adjusting quickly to life on campus and playing for the No. 10 Longhorns, but both admit to certain aspects of home that they miss.
"I think one of the biggest differences would be the weather," Engle said. "I'm not used to the humidity and 97 degrees every single day." However, she also noted, "I think another big difference is everyone is a lot friendlier here. It's cool that UT has such a good atmosphere since I'm so far away from home."
"I miss my family and my bed," Kisner said. "The atmosphere in Sugar Land is kind of a bubble. Everyone knows everyone, and I'm still getting used to Austin, but it's fun."
To ease the transition, Kisner couldn't leave home without her stuffed bear named "Wilbert," while Engle covered her walls with pictures of friends and family.
"If I ever feel a little bit of homesickness, I always have my pictures to look at," Engle said. "I also always have my phone because I talk to my family at least every day."
Between classes, practice, games and studying, the schedule of a student-athlete at UT is demanding. When she can find the time, Kisner, a self-proclaimed "health-freak," said she enjoys spending her spare time honing her piano skills. "I've played the piano since I was in first grade. My favorite thing to play is Shania Twain, because I know the words and I can sing to it. Country music is my favorite, and Ashley and I jam to country sometimes in our dorm."
Even though she's embraced country music, Engle confessed to something that her native-Texan teammates should resolve immediately.
"I've never tried chicken fried steak before," said Engle. "I've never had a lot of the food that's here in Texas, so I find myself asking, 'What is that?' fairly often.
Now well into their first semester on campus, both girls agreed that with the limited space of a dorm room, they have little choice but to keep a clean room. "We're both pretty good about keeping our space together, and I find myself making my bed in the morning, which is really weird for me," Engle said. "Heather has done a little more of cleaning the bathroom and stuff like that, but I think we're on the same page."
As the two freshmen continue their first season at UT, they've proven to be a welcomed addition to the Texas Volleyball program and added to the deep pool of talent that characterizes the 2006 squad. With all the differences that distinguish Texas and California, Engle and Kisner both agree on one thing. They're both Longhorns at heart now, and came to The University of Texas to win.