Shelbie Letzer wanted to attend the University of the Incarnate Word so badly, she was willing to give up her passion.

Luckily for her, she did not have to.

The Copperas Cove senior recently committed to play soccer for the Division I program, forgoing offers from a handful of other suitors because her experience during a visit to the San Antonio campus last month erased any doubts concerning the standout’s life after high school.

“After going to see the school, even if they hadn’t offered me basically a full-ride (scholarship), I would have went there anyways without soccer,” Letzer said. “It is just a beautiful school and getting to play soccer just makes it even better.”

Making the experience even sweeter for the 2013 District 8-5A All-District Midfield Co-MVP is the fact classmate and best friend Qiana Canete also secured her playing future by committing to play volleyball at the University of Texas–Arlington.

After intentionally doing almost everything together since first meeting at seventh-grade volleyball tryouts, the pair stunned each other by inadvertently making their decisions within hours of one another.

“I was about to call her and tell her about my visit and how things went when she called me and told me she had committed,” Letzer said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just committed too.’ It happened at the exact same time. It was crazy.”

Like her best friend, Canete, who was named district MVP as a junior, knew UT-Arlington was the place for her almost instantly.

“I met some of the girls a couple of years ago, when I went to their camp,” the senior said. “I just thought I had a really good bond with them. I really like the coach, I really like the atmosphere, and I really like the Dallas area too.”

In addition to being the first Copperas Cove athletes from the Class of 2014 to make their commitments, the Lady Bulldawgs are two of the most decorated players at the school.

Letzer was an all-district first team selection in both her freshman and sophomore seasons before splitting the midfield MVP superlative with Belton’s Kat Parker this year. More importantly, she helped guide the Lady Bulldawgs to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, ending a postseason drought stretching back to 2001.

Canete produced a standout season last year, helping the Lady Bulldawgs embark on a 23-match win streak, including the program’s first undefeated run to a district championship, before falling to Flower Mound in the area round of the playoffs. Her district MVP award comes one year after receiving the District 12-5A Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore, and with 453 kills, 234 blocks and 284 digs last season, she was named the All-Area Volleyball MVP for 2012.

But the two were not always so athletically gifted, according to Canete.

“We weren’t that good,” she recalled of their seventh-grade volleyball season. “So, we sat on the bench together, but we actually did everything together.”

The friends even lived together briefly prior to the start of their freshman years, when both of Canete’s parents, who each serve in the military, were deployed simultaneously.

With both prepared to attend different colleges, however, they each intend to savor their senior year together before separating for the first time since meeting in middle school.

“It’s bittersweet,” Letzer said. “We are both moving on to better things, but we still are going to be losing something.”

“I think (the upcoming school year) is going to be special,” added Canete. “We’re probably going to be spending even more time than usual together.”

Contact Clay Whittington at

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