LAS CRUCES, N.M. (BVM) — Talent alone helps set Arizona commit Tess Fuqua apart from many of her peers on New Mexico’s high school volleyball courts. But Pac-12 recruits don’t come out of Las Cruces too often, and the Centennial High School junior doesn’t believe she would’ve become one herself if not for a strong support system that has been there to guide her along the way.
Fuqua’s main pillar of support is her mother, Erika Martinez, who serves Las Cruces Public Schools as a student advisor for the International Welcome Center. Martinez is also a former athlete and coach, and she’s been backing Fuqua, both as a parent and as a coach, since day one.
“She has always been my coach since I was a little kid,” Fuqua said. “She used to be a volleyball coach herself so I was raised in the gym. I used to play basketball and she used to be a basketball star and I thought that was going to be my main sport, but the more that I was at the gym and watching her coaching and being around the girls and the environment, I realized that was going to be my main sport. … She just did a lot of things that parents wouldn’t do for their kids in athletics.”
Fuqua has also benefited from the counsel of five-time NMAA state champion head coach Al Rosen, who grew up in Hawaii and played for UCLA’s men’s volleyball program back in the 1970s.
“My mom worked with him for a really long time and he’s known me since I was little and he definitely played a big part in how I got to where I am too,” Fuqua said. “He just has really good knowledge of volleyball and so I was really grateful to have him as a coach and for him to pass his knowledge on to me and make my game stronger.”
Under Rosen’s leadership, Fuqua won a state title with Centennial as a sophomore during the COVID-shortened 2021 spring season. The 6-foot outside hitter then led the Hawks to the Class 5A state semifinals this past fall and became a two-time all-state selection after recording 586 kills, 144 digs, 49 service aces, and 39 blocks while posting a .546 kill percentage. The stellar season earned Fuqua the Gatorade New Mexico Volleyball Player of the Year honors, making her the first Centennial volleyball player to win the award.
“Tess has been a dominant player in New Mexico volleyball since she was a freshman and especially in the last two years,” Rosen said in a Gatorade press release. “She has grown not only as a player but as a leader and a captain as well.”
Fuqua’s growth will continue into her senior year with the Hawks before she heads to Tucson, Arizona in 2023. Fuqua received interest from other Division I programs but committed to the Wildcats last fall after Arizona head coach Dave Rubio extended a scholarship offer. Rubio discovered Fuqua through club volleyball and his brother Keith, a former New Mexico State assistant who joined Fuqua’s club team as a coach halfway through their season last year.
Fuqua said the coaches and the campus environment were among the several factors that played into her decision to choose Arizona as her college destination.
“The coaching staff is very good and the environment of the school,” Fuqua said. “The whole city is involved in the college and I loved how welcoming everybody was there. … It was just how positive everything was and everybody was so united and there was a lot of unity on the team.”
An aspiring medical professional in either the dental or optometry field, Fuqua has already gotten a jumpstart on furthering her education in college by taking part in an internship at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine last summer. As a future Pac-12 athlete, she plans on being similarly prepared to take her game to the Division I college level by the time the fall of 2023 arrives.
“Hopefully (we can) win another state championship and athletically I can grow as an individual, increase my vertical, put on more muscle weight, and just better my game mentally and physically,” Fuqua said. “I know I probably won’t be a starting freshman, but I want to be able to fight for a position and hopefully gain a starting position and be able to compete. That’s something that I’m definitely looking forward to is just competing in that conference and against people I know are as competitive or even more competitive than I am.”