Editor's note: This is an installment in a series highlighting the accomplishments of those Moffat County High School athletes named All-Conference and All Conference honorable mention during the 2000-2001 athletic seasons.
Amber Sanchez played high school volleyball for three years, but it wasn't until last fall that she competed in her first full year on varsity.
During her freshman year, she was just learning the ropes. Her sophomore year, she knew the game plan, but sustained a shoulder injury that cut her playing time drastically, so her junior year is really Sanchez's first year of hard competition.
"Sanchez came out and played a solid year for us, but she's a solid player," Coach Vicky Hadden said.
As outside hitter for the team, Sanchez played an important role on both offense and defense. Though she felt she played better defense, the coach said she is indispensable at both positions. Her outstanding play as the outside hitter earned her an All-Conference spot in the Western Slope Conference, her first of the year. She went on to win one for basketball also.
Sanchez said she brought a certain amount of athletic ability to the game, but that her greatest strength is her aggression.
"I am really intense in any sport I play," she said. "In volleyball, I have a real tendency to attack the ball wherever it is on the court."
Neither Sanchez nor Hadden could say what the outside hitter's stats were for the year, but the coach did say that she is one of the team's go-to girls.
"She was the one who we'd try to get the ball to for the kills, and was everywhere on the court for digs," Hadden said.
The time that stands out most in this All-Conference player's mind was districts this year, when the team took on their rivals the Rifle Bears. The Lady Bulldogs left the game triumphant, two games to one in the match-up. But what Sanchez remembers most is the amount of defense the team had to play.
"We were busy all day with Rifle, fending off their plays. Right after that game, we came up against Cortez, who had some of the best hitters in the district last fall. We were digging balls all over the place," she said.
In a sport as fast-paced as volleyball, most wouldn't think Sanchez's attraction for the game comes from its laid-back atmosphere, but it does. She said the way the team is set up offers a more relaxed pace than other sports she's played. Development is something that is encouraged by all the coaches along the way and is always in the player's hands.
"If you want to be good at volleyball, the coaches help you along technically, but you're the one who decides how good you'll be," she said.
Sanchez will return next year to finish out her high school career and participate in her three sports. She plays golf in the spring.
She is optimistic about her team's chances next year, and looks for them to place at districts.
"We have a strong team coming back next year, and we've all played together for most of our volleyball careers," Sanchez said. "The biggest thing is we're all fairly athletic, which I feel will make it difficult for most teams we face."