Setter Amber Hawthorne burst on the UC San Diego Women's Volleyball scene as a freshman in 2011, seeing action in all 28 matches and starting 14 while splitting time as the Tritons' offensive distributor with senior Roxanne Brunsting. While UCSD posted a nifty 22-6 record and finished second in the tough CCAA, Hawthorne handed out 527 assists as well as recording 207 digs and 25 aces. She certainly caught the attention of Head Coach Ricci Luyties. "Amber had an outstanding freshman year, earned a starting spot early and never looked back," said Luyties. "I'm impressed with the decisions she makes as a setter controlling the offense and with her overall demeanor as a player. She worked hard during spring practice and came out proving that she can also be a very good front row player. If she keeps progressing, she can be a special player for UCSD." With fall camp rapidly approaching, the 5-10 Granada Hills High School product took time to talk about her first year, her head coach and her team's prospects for the coming season.
Q-From a volleyball perspective, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make coming to UC San Diego as a freshman last year?
HAWTHORNE-The biggest adjustment came from time management. In high school, away matches would be no further than a 20-minute drive. Now, away matches consist of flights to Northern California, including various multiple-hour bus trips. Even for home matches, we commit almost four additional hours before game time to prepare.
Q-Was there ever a time when you went through a "what have I gotten myself into moment?"
HAWTHORNE-Almost! During pre-season, double-day training became very strenuous and I really began missing my family. Fortunately, I have a VERY supportive team that helped me adjust to all the changes.
Q-How difficult was pre-season training as a freshman? What advice would you have for this year's newcomers?
HAWTHORNE-The team's first day of practice begins with the "run test"... dun, dun, dunnnn. This test is a series of sprints that had me nervous all summer. Once I passed the test, the rest of the pre-season training was physically tough, but not as mentally strenuous. After the second day, my legs were so sore that getting out of bed was even a struggle. Advice I would have for the newcomers about the run test would be to realize that 90% of the test's difficulty comes from the pressure we put on ourselves. Also, I would recommend taking advantage of the available ice baths (like Lauren Demos and I did last summer)!
Q-What was the best advice you got last season? Where did it come from?
HAWTHORNE-After our first scrimmage against Point Loma, my parents told me to have confidence in my game, and continue to enjoy every moment I get to play as a Triton.
Q-You played in all 28 matches last fall, starting 14. Were you surprised to see that much action? Were you satisfied with your performance?
HAWTHORNE-Going in to training camp, I really had no expectations about playing time. All I focused on was working hard and keeping a positive attitude-I just wanted to be the best teammate possible. All in all, I was very happy with my freshman season. Getting to play in all 102 sets was an accomplishment I am very proud of. I hope to contribute even more this upcoming season.
Q-Where do you hope to make the most improvement between years one and two? What type of off-season training have you focused on?
HAWTHORNE-I hope to see the most improvement in my all-around game. During the spring, I was able to play all six rotations and work on my blocking and front row attack. Continuing in the summer, my off-season training consisted of regimented weight lifting, lots of running and sprints and beach volleyball. Hopefully, this summer's hard work will elevate my overall game and help me become more of a leader on the court.
Q-Have you been watching any of the Olympics from London? How would you handicap the U.S. teams' chances in the various volleyball events?
HAWTHORNE-I have been watching a lot of the Olympics and I am predicting (and hoping for) several gold medals for both the indoor and sand teams.
Q-Beach volleyball star Misty May-Treanor is one of your favorite athletes. What are some aspects of her game you would like to incorporate more into yours?
HAWTHORNE-After watching Misty May-Treanor play, a part of her game I would love to incorporate into mine is her court awareness. She does an amazing job of reading her opponents to predict where she needs to be on the court.
Q-What Olympic sport (non-volleyball) would you like to try? Why? Which would you find totally impossible?
HAWTHORNE-I think I would like to try the javelin throw. I had a good arm back in high school when I still played softball, so maybe it could translate in track and field. I also might like to try the marathon... just kidding!! I would find gymnastics totally impossible. I can hardly do a cartwheel.
Q-Speaking of Olympians, what's it like playing for Head Coach and l988 gold medalist Ricci Luyties?
HAWTHORNE-I absolutely love playing for Coach Luyties. He and I have a lot in common-we are both setters and love beach volleyball. While he may seem quiet to others, Coach communicates very well with me about tactics to use on the court. His court knowledge and experience translates so well into his coaching. I just want to pick his mind about volleyball for hours on end.
Q-Describe Ricci's coaching style. As a former setter, has he offered any particularly valuable tips?
HAWTHORNE-Coach Luyties is a very patient coach. If, while watching a match, he sees something on the court that could be improved technically or strategically, Coach does a great job of conveying the necessary information to make the changes happen. During several tight games last season, Coach Luyties individually pulled me aside and offered me different plays I could run to stop the momentum of the other team. I have learned so much already, and look forward to learning even more over the next three seasons.
Q-The 2012 UCSD team will be a young one, having graduated five starters from a squad that finished second in the CCAA. How do you envision those players being replaced? Do you anticipate a different style of play this season?
HAWTHORNE-During spring, I thought all the returners played very well. Although we cannot replace all the talented, outgoing seniors of last year, we have a lot of new talent joining our roster for this upcoming season. I believe the incoming recruits will mesh quickly with the returning players. With so many younger hitters, the tempo of our offense may change slightly. Either way, we will be an exciting team to watch this fall.
Q-Talk about the connection between setter and hitters. How long does it take to build up a mutual comfort level? Which of this year's Triton hitters do you think is poised for a breakthrough in 2012?
HAWTHORNE-A consistent connection between a setter and a hitter can take from a few days to a few months to establish. Fortunately, we have pre-season for that! This past spring, I developed solid connections with all of the returning hitters. I hope to establish good connections with all the incoming hitters before our first scrimmage against Point Loma.
This coming fall, I expect to see Sara McCutchan and Rachelle Kinney perform very well. Last season, we substituted in and out for each other, never getting the chance to play on the court together. During spring practices and tournaments, I was able to develop a reliable middle attack with Sara and an aggressive opposite attack with Rachelle. Both of my teammates have been working very hard and are ready for highly productive seasons.
Q-What are some of your interests away from the gym? What has been the highlight of your summer?
HAWTHORNE-Besides working out and running, I spend a lot of time with my friends playing beach volleyball and getting frozen yogurt. Last summer, I began my love affair with country music, and it has only gotten stronger since. This summer, I went kayaking for the first time and now I cannot get enough! The highlight of my summer would have to be the trip my family and I took to San Diego to visit LEGOLAND and Sea World. As the summer wore on, I spent more and more time thinking about the upcoming season and getting excited about playing with my old teammates again, as well as getting to know all the new ones.
Q-You recently declared as a Human Development major. Are you leaning in any particular direction and what kind of plans do you have for the future?
HAWTHORNE-Actually, I have declared my major as Human Development. I am torn between two possible paths for a career-physical therapy and education. I figure that majoring in Human Development will help me determine which I am more interested in, making that decision a little easier.
Q-What's tougher, getting "A's" in your classes or winning in the CCAA?
HAWTHORNE-Honestly, both are tough. Both require focus, dedication and time. This year, our team is very young and it will take hard work to match or exceed the successes we reached last season. I am confident in our returning talent and hopeful that the new additions will be ready to step in and contribute to our overall success. With respect to academics, I am hopeful that having a year under my belt will help me raise my GPA even higher.
Q-What are three things you would like to accomplish before graduating from UC San Diego?
HAWTHORNE-Other than getting my degree, I would like to develop life-long friendships with my amazing teammates, win a few conference championships (and then some) and average more than 1,000 assists per year for the next three seasons. Go Tritons!
Previous Q & A Articles
Brian Donohoe (Men's Water Polo) September 4, 2011
Roxanne Brunsting (Women's Volleyball) August 19, 2011
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011
Vincent Nguyen (Tennis) July 1, 2011
Patti Gerckens (Softball) May 26, 2011
Blake Tagmyer (Baseball) May 11, 2011
Theresa Richards (Women's Track & Field) April 27, 2011
Austin West (Men's Tennis) April 17, 2011
Matt Herman (Men's Swimming & Diving) March 12, 2011
Christine Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010