After a stellar freshman season that saw her start in 24 of 26 matches for the University of California San Diego women's volleyball team and finish third on the squad with 237 kills, Carlsbad native Amanda Colla was switched from outside hitter to libero prior to her 2015 sophomore campaign. The 5-foot-10 San Dieguito Academy product made the most of the change, racking up a team-high 560 digs as the Tritons went 20-12 and reached the second round of the NCAA West Regional. "Amanda is a steady, versatile player and a good leader," says UC San Diego head coach Ricci Luyties. "She passes hard-driven balls well, and is an excellent server. We're looking for her to play a key role for us this fall." With her junior season rapidly approaching, Colla talked about last year's transition, career aspirations, and her hopes for the final two years of her UCSD career.
Q: What's a typical San Diego summer day like for Amanda Colla?
COLLA: A typical day for me hopefully consists of being outside as much as possible. I love going to the beach or the pool with friends. This summer, the weekdays end with me going to summer school at UCSD.
Q: How fortunate do you feel to not only be living but attending college in San Diego?
COLLA: I knew when I was looking at colleges that I wanted to stay in California, so I feel so fortunate to be able to have that ability. San Diego is my home and I never want to leave.
Q: As a freshman in 2014, you started 24 matches as an outside hitter, were second on the team in digs (304) and aces (19), and third in kills (237). Then, Coach Ricci Luyties shifted you to libero as a sophomore. How difficult was that transition?
COLLA: The transition was difficult in two ways. Mentality-wise, I had to be more of a defensive leader and demand that my team lay out for every ball. Skill-wise, I had to be more of a consistent passer and be able to read where the opposing players would most likely be hitting (the ball). Both of these were difficult in the beginning of the season, but eased up once I was able to fully devote myself to libero.
Q: You led the team in 2015 with 560 digs, the second-best all-time single-season mark at UC San Diego. Did you ever miss not having the opportunity to get your swings?
COLLA: Coach Luyties gives me some opportunities to swing in practice, but I feel like I can help the team the most by staying at libero. I do miss getting kills and blocks, but passing and defense are my two favorite parts of the game.
Q: From a volleyball perspective, what do you do during the summer?
COLLA: In summer, we are given a strength program by our strength coaches, and then each player adds their own conditioning to that. Since I played club volleyball in San Diego, my club often holds college nights, where college players from all around can play against each other. This definitely helps with keeping up our skills for when the season starts in August.
Q: What facet of your game are you hoping to improve the most as a junior, and what type of work have you done in the off-season to address that?
COLLA: I'm hoping to improve my defense, especially when it comes to tips and roll shots. In the off-season, I've worked on staying on my toes the entire rally, which allows me to take a strong first step and get to the ball.
Q: Last year's team finished 20-12 and was third in the CCAA regular-season standings, but was ousted in the semifinals of both the CCAA Tournament and NCAA West Regional. How would you evaluate those results?
COLLA: I am very proud of our team's results. We had a hiccup in the middle of the season that we overcame, and rode that wave all the way to the NCAA West Regional, where we beat our rival and CCAA regular-season (and tournament) champion, Sonoma State.
Q: Heading into the 2016 training camp, the UCSD roster features eight returning players (including four regular starters) and nine newcomers. What will be the most important aspect of preseason, if this year's Tritons are to be successful?
COLLA: The most important aspect would definitely be our integration with all the newcomers. We only have two short weeks before we start competing, to figure out everyone's personalities, and their positions on the team. If the team is to be successful, we need to integrate the returners and newcomers as quickly as possible.
Q: Is there someone on the roster who you think can be a breakout star in 2016?
COLLA: I think there is a lot of potential for any newcomer to come in and be a breakout star. It all depends on their dedication, and how much effort they put into practice each day.
Q: What three words best describe your personality?
COLLA: Dedicated, smart and sarcastic.
Q: How do you think your on- and off-court personalities differ, if at all?
COLLA: On the court, I can be loud and demanding of my team, and off the court, I am more laid back.
Q: What would outsiders be surprised to know about your Olympic-gold-medal-winning (1988) coach Ricci Luyties?
COLLA: He loves Jamba Juice. His order is Apple 'n Greens (Smoothie), with blueberries instead of peaches.
Q: You're a physiology and neuroscience major with eyes on a potential career as a physical therapist. What spurred your interest in that profession? What has been the toughest class in your major?
COLLA: I went to physical therapy three times during high school, so after seeing what they do firsthand and experiencing how much they help others, I became really interested in it. The toughest class I have taken would most likely be Human Physiology 100A with Professor Bloodgood. She teaches the material well, but there is just so much information that it is hard to retain it all.
Q: You've said hiking is a favorite pastime. What are some of your favorite day trips in the San Diego area?
COLLA: Coronado is a great place to walk around and go to the beach, but I love Torrey Pines because it takes you to cliffs that overlook the ocean.
Q: What would you like to achieve in your final two seasons as a volleyball player at UC San Diego?
COLLA: Personally, I would love to break the record for a single season in digs (644 by Brittany Lombardi in 2013), as well as aces in a season. As a team, my goal each year is to make it as far as possible, hopefully making it to and doing well in the NCAA playoffs.
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