CHICAGO HEIGHTS | When Bloom Twp.'s Amber Fryer was asked to consider her potential as a volleyball player, she said the sky is the limit.
Fryer should be familiar with the sky. The junior outside hitter spent much of her season at high altitudes, putting up huge numbers against stop-her defenses while leading Bloom Twp. to a 20-win season and a Southland Athletic Conference championship.
Fryer led the area in kills this season with 344 in 32 matches, a standout number for a standout player who is The Times 2010 Player of the Year. Fryer also added 20 blocks for points, 123 digs and 19 service aces, putting together an impressive body of work that has caught the eye of a handful of colleges.
"She is the real deal," said Bloom coach Jason Norberg.
Bloom lost every starter except Fryer from the 2009 team. Norberg looked at the incoming talent in preseason and knew that moving his all-conference middle hitter to the outside would be a necessary component to rebuilding the team. Outside passing and timing on Fryer's kill attempts were skills that were hardly nurtured her previous season at middle hitter. With the move to outside hitter this season, however, the need to refine those skills quickly became imperative for the talented 5-foot-11 player.
"At first, I didn't want to do it," Fryer said of the move to the outside. "I wasn't really a good passer, but at the Geneseo tournament in September, it started working. Now I feel like my passing is what has improved the most."
Fryer's kill numbers are all the more impressive when considers that many of those shots came against defensive sets designed to slow her effectiveness. It was this shift in what defenses presented that really told Fryer that she was succeeding in her new role.
"I really noticed it the two times we played against Rich Central," Fryer said. "The first time we played them, I got a lot of kills, but the second time a few weeks later they were triple blocking me. It was frustrating, but it was also a challenge."
Bloom put together a nine-match win streak built largely behind the arm of Fryer, who led the team to a 9-1 SAC record. Along the way, she earned all-tournament nods at Lincoln-Way Central and Geneseo.
"This year, we brought up a lot of sophomores to the team, but we played off that (inexperience)," Fryer said. "I think we were playing a little scared, and it worked."
Fryer's talents have not gone without notice. She began to receive queries from colleges while playing club ball for Diamond Elite as a sophomore. The current list of schools interested in her volleyball talents now includes Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Western Kentucky and Arkansas.
"When I first heard of college interest as a sophomore, I wasn't expecting that at all," Fryer said. "I'm still getting a variety of schools coming at me, and it still shocks me sometimes."
Three years ago, Fryer would have been really shocked by this interest. At that time, she knew little about volleyball, merely going out for the sport as a freshman to keep herself busy.
"I just wanted to do something," Fryer said.
Consider that mission accomplished.