The Monitor and RGVSports.com are bringing back the ‘Where Are They Now?’ series that revisits some of the top athletes throughout the Rio Grande Valley from a wide variety of sports.

Texas Tech junior Audrey Smith was one the Valley’s most fearsome volleyball players in her high school career, shining as a setter and part of Sharyland Pioneer’s first four-year graduating class.

But before competing for the Diamondbacks or Red Raiders between the lines, Smith had to work hard to keep pace with her athletic family. Her dad played football at Rice University and had an older brother that also played football at Texas Lutheran as well as an older sister who won a Big XII championship ring as part of the Texas A&M equestrian team.

“I’m the youngest of all four of my siblings, so I’ve always had that competitive nature within me to keep up with them all the time,” Smith said. “Everything is a game and there’s always a winner and a loser. We just always try to make it fun, upbeat and competitive. I do think that transitioned into the fire within me to take it to the next level.”

In addition to running track at Pioneer, Smith burst onto the RGV volleyball scene as an immediate contributor as a freshman and earned District 31-5A’s Newcomer of the Year award and earned First team All-District Honors as a sophomore.

“I have an older sister who played volleyball at Sharyland a couple of years before me. She had a lot of honors and accolades as well,” she said. “I loved volleyball from Day 1 and strived to be like her and be as decorated as she was with as many honors. I just really wanted to make an impression on everybody in the Valley because I had big goals for myself.”

In her junior season, Smith was named a First Team All-Area and Class 5A First Team All-State selection and also won the District 31-5A Setter of the Year award. Her play for the Diamondbacks and the Valley Venom on the club circuit  started garnering attention until one day a random call changed the course of her career.

“I was getting recruited by a lot of smaller schools here and there, and one day on the road I got a phone call from my coach Morgan Thomas,” she said. “My heart just about stopped and I almost passed out,” Smith said. “I never expected a Big XII, Power-5 school to call me, who is a short setter and defensive specialist from the Rio Grande Valley. That opportunity was second-to-none and I can’t be more grateful for it.”

Smith earned Academic All-Big XII First Team honors in her sophomore season in Lubbock and has appeared in 18 contests across two seasons for the Red Raiders. The highlight of her collegiate career to date came in a road game against UTRGV in Edinburg, when she was subbed in to serve match point and delivered the knockout kill against the Vaqueros.

“My team from top to bottom gets along great, our dynamic is amazing and my relationship with my coaches is awesome,” she said. “They have really taken the effort to have a strong relationship individually with each player. That just makes all the hard times that people talk about with a college athletic career so much easier because they’re just awesome.”

Smith, however, remains most proud of the tradition she and her teammates set guiding the Diamondbacks to four straight area round playoff appearances. She reflects back on the standard she set at Pioneer and uses it as motivation to represent her roots.

“It was definitely really rewarding, and I was a role model to a lot of people back at home even though I was so far away,” she said. “Any time I’ve had a bad practice or something, I think of all the people that I have been able to inspire throughout my journey and all the hard work that I have put in and all the people at home who have dedicated so much time into my career in the past when I was in high school. Those little things have made it really fulfilling and rewarding to be a part of a program and be proud of where I came from.”