The UC San Diego women’s volleyball team returns home for a four match homestand beginning Sept. 29-30 against Sonoma State and Humboldt State. The Tritons swept their first eight opponents and enter the week with an 11-2 record and a 6-2 California Collegiate Athletic Association mark, good for third place. Amber Ries has been a big part of UCSD’s success with five matches of 10 or more kills, including a 14 kill performance at No. 7 CSUSB. The junior opposite has also consistently been one of the top blockers on the team. The La Verne, Calif. native recently took time to discuss the current volleyball season and life as a student-athlete at UCSD.
Q- What type of volleyball and non-volleyball activities did you do this summer?
RIES- Seeing that our season starts the first week of August, summer goes by really fast. I played open at a local open gym two times a week with college players from around the area. As for non-volleyball, I worked as a science camp counselor with kids 5-12 years and it was such a blast, playing with kids all day long. I also did the vacation thing with my family and hit up the beach a few times.
Q- The first-half of the conference season wraps-up on Sept. 29-30. What is your evaluation of the team’s performance so far?
RIES- We have made leaps and bounds from last year. I know that everyone is really excited with how far that we have come and there is only room for more improvement. At the rate we are going, we are going to be hard to stop. The team is looking forward to showing the conference how hard that we have worked by coming out strong in the second half of the season.
Q- When you arrived as a Freshman, there were many seniors on that team. What advice did you seek from the seniors?
RIES- I was a scared little freshman when I came to UCSD and learned from the seniors through observation of their strong presence on the court and how they conducted themselves off the court. With that, I learned the kind of mentor that I wanted to be for the new girls coming in.
Q- You also played basketball in high school. Do you have bragging rights over the other former hoopsters on the volleyball team (Natalie, Rebecca, Hannah played in high school) when it comes to who is better at basketball?
RIES- Basketball is an intense physical sport. It’s really hard to say who would be best because all those girls have a deep competitiveness to them and the will to fight. It would be fun to play and see who the real baller would be, maybe after season.
Q- Is there a certain aspect of your game that you worked hard on to improve this year?
RIES- Over winter we had individual practices where we fine tune all of the fundamental skills. Many girls have habits that they have had for years, and those can be hard to break and change without a ton of work. As for me, I’ve been working at my approach and arm swing, and I have noticed a change with all the work that was put in.
Q- Name some of your favorite songs you like to hear during warm-ups.
RIES- This year’s warm up was made by a collection of songs picked by girls on the team so everyone has a song that pumps them up. I didn’t turn a song in because its hard to have just one. But my favorite type are the classic rock songs, those seem to get me going the best.
Q- How has Tom Black and the coaching staff helped you improve?
RIES- It has been a great experience on so many levels. Tom and the coaching staff brought a competitiveness and intensity to this program along with the will to work hard. By bringing these aspects to the court, I have stepped up my game. My goals I have as a person on and off the court, have changed for the best.
Q- The academic year has just begun. Are you looking forward to taking any classes this year?
RIES- Actually, I enjoy going to class and learning, especially things that I can relate to real life.
Q- Do you have any funny stories to share involving the team?
RIES- Last year for Tom Blacks birthday our team wanted to do something for him. We decided to make T-shirts with Tom’s little league picture on the front. At the airport our whole team took off our jackets exposing the shirts and sang loudly for all to hear. It was awesome.
Q- Do you have an idea of what you’d like to do with your Bioengineering major?
RIES- I recently changed to straight Biology. As of right now I would really like to teach high school science and coach volleyball.
Q- How did you come to the decision on choosing to attend UCSD?
RIES - I was very interested in academics first. I didn’t want to go to a hard core sports school. I found out that UCSD was a division II highly academic school. As soon as I came to a volleyball game, I knew that this was the place for me. It’s close enough to my hometown, but still a good distance. I would not have changed my choice for anything.
Q- After a week of practice and games on Friday and Saturday, what do you like to do on your “off” day?
RIES- Off days before school start usually involve going to the beach and crashing all day. It’s amazing how tired you can be even when you do get enough sleep. Once school starts though things change and free time becomes a rarity, but I love staying busy! I also started to work at my church with the children’s ministry on Sundays which is such a blast.
Q- Homecoming is approaching on October 7, a big match against pre-season CCAA favorite Cal State L.A. Have anything to say to alumni and friends that may be on the bubble, in deciding to come to the match?
RIES- Seeing that we beat them 3-0 the first time around I’m positive that they are going to come back fighting hard! The good news however, we are at home which always gives our team an extra boost of energy as well as having tons of fans in the stands! So take it from me, its going to be an awesome game and you all need to be there!