CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Bloom Township outside hitter Amber Fryer said she can't wait to play Marian Catholic this year.
The Spartans have a new coach, Ryan Summers, and Summers just happens to be a coach of Fryer with Diamond Elite club volleyball.
The nonconference matchup, as it turns out, will be the last match of the regular season for both teams. By the time the teams meet in October, many things will already be decided for both programs, such as final standings in their respective conferences, the playoff seedings, and if Fryer is fortunate, where the senior will be playing volleyball next season.
Fryer does not anticipate sneaking up on any competition other than Marian Catholic, either. The 2010 Times Player of the Year led the area in kills with 344 in 32 matches. She also tallied 20 blocks for points, 123 digs and 19 aces from her new role as an outside hitter, a role Blazing Trojans coach Jason Norberg moved her to from middle hitter last season.
Though Fryer played as a middle hitter again during the club season with Summers, she said the adjustment back to outside hitter for the high school team should be easier this time around. Fryer said she worked harder than ever this summer in preparation for her high school season, in hopes to lead her team to a performance that exceeds last year's season which included a fifth-straight Southland Athletic Conference title and 20 wins.
"I feel a lot of pressure, because I feel like I am the one who has (had) to work to keep the team together on the court," Fryer said. "If I'm down, then the whole team is down, so that is pressure."
Fryer and Norberg anticipate teams this year will load the defense to try to thwart Fryer at the point of attack, which could free up teammates for shots. Norberg said he has also worked with Fryer to vary her kill locations, to make defending her all the more difficult.
"I feel that I can still get better from where I'm at now," Fryer said. "I feel I've matured more since last year, but there's stuff I can still learn and stuff that I can work on. I think this season will be harder for me, but that is where my teammates will come in to step it up."
Summers said Fryer blossomed with Diamond Elite her sophomore season; he estimates that 30 college programs have expressed interest in Fryer and that no recruiter who has watched her play has left the gymnasium without asking about her plans after high school.
"She jumps well, has a strong arm and has a great attitude," Summers said. "She is very coachable and is a great player to have on your team."
Fryer took a trip last fall to watch Illinois State and Southern Illinois women's volleyball teams play. Though Fryer said both schools expressed an interest in the 5-foot-11 outside hitter, Fryer said her delayed response times to their overtures resulted in both schools moving on in the recruiting game. Fryer said the recruiting process will not distract from her efforts on the court for Blazin' Trojans this fall, though she said she would like to have a college team lined up before prep playoffs begin in October.
"Anybody that takes a chance on her will be very happy," Norberg said. "She works too hard and appreciates every opportunity she is given. She'll make the most of it, whoever takes her."