Sept. 20, 2001
By Jack Williams – Georgia Tech’s Amanda Hess is an accomplished pianist who hits the high notes of classical music, playing Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. But hold on! The young lady is making music of a different kind these days.
A sophomore outside hitter from Indianapolis, Ind., Hess is a rising star on Tech’s highly-ranked volleyball team all because she has learned the valuable lesson that practice makes perfect.
And believe me, we’re not just talking about piano lessons here.
“Last year as a freshman, quite frankly, Amanda was not a very good practice player,” says volleyball head coach Shelton Collier. “As a result, her development was hindered. But it’s a different story now. Amanda’s improvement in her on-court performance and in her practice intensity are key reasons why I feel our team will be more successful this season.”
Amanda seconds the notion. “When I came to Tech, I always had been known as a game player, one who turned it on when we were ready to go,” she said. “After last season, Coach Collier told me I needed to step it up in practice. Now I try to give 110 percent in practice, and I think that has been an inspiration to others to give their best.”
One thing for sure, Amanda certainly was at her best in a disappointing five-game home court loss to Duke Tuesday night. She had a career high 22 kills and 17 digs in the Jackets’ heartbreaking loss by the scores of 30-27, 19-30, 30-27, 24-30, 14-16.
Hess and her teammates, now 4-3 for the season, next turn their attention to three consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference matches against Florida State Saturday night at 7 p.m., Wake Forest Sunday at 5 p.m. and Clemson Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. All three contests will be staged at O’Keefe Gym on the Tech campus.
The Jackets were picked as the pre-season favorites in the ACC race and hope to get back on the winning track in the big matches that lie ahead.
One thing for sure, Hess is proving to be a star in many different ways for Tech – and not just on the volleyball court. Salutatorian of her graduating class in high school, she’s a dean’s list student in management at Tech with a 3.2 grade point average. And she is extremely popular with her teammates and many other friends.
She has put the piano lessons on hold for the time being simply because she does not have access to a piano. “That’s low on my list of priorities right now,” she said. “I did practice the piano for more than 10 years and was told that I had talent. Maybe at a later time, I will go back to it.”
Hess also has left no doubts about her talent on the volleyball court.
“Amanda has been playing two roles for us, one as an outside hitter and another as a defensive specialist,” Coach Collier said. “In both roles, she has been quite effective. Amanda has really been a lot of fun to coach and I have been so proud of her noticeable improvement in her determination and intensity.”
Hess says her biggest improvement has come as a blocker. “I’ve always been fairly consistent in passing and defense,” she said. She currently is second on the team in digs with 62 and is third in kills with 41.
Hess says the highlight of her time at Tech came in last year’s regular season finale against North Carolina. The Jackets won on their home court to wrap up the ACC regular season title. “It was a special experience,” she said. “We had a sellout crowd and there was amazing enthusiasm.”
UNC, however, rebounded to win the tournament title.
“Now, our top goal is to win the tournament,” Hess says. “We have five starters back so it seems this would be the year to do it. We wanted the tournament title last year and didn’t get it. So now, everyone on our team wants it even more.
“North Carolina took a top 10 team, Penn State, to five games recently so we know they will be tough. In fact, every team in the ACC is capable of beating you if you are not ready to play. In most conferences, there are maybe four good teams and then the others who are not so good. In the ACC, every team is good.”
Hess points out that Tech has a balanced team with the right blend of veterans and newcomers. “Our freshman players have brought new energy to the team,” she said. “And our seniors (Maja Paschale, Kyleen Bell and Dori Pap) are players we always rely on, and they always come through.”
There’s one adjustment facing Amanda and her teammates and everyone else who plays volleyball – the new scoring system in where points can be won both when you have the serve and when you do not. “I’m not a fan of that system,” she says. “Once you get behind, it seems it is too difficult to come back under the new system.”
Hess has been playing volleyball since she was in the fifth grade. “My dad (Paul) coached my first team on the junior league level,” she said. “He had been an outstanding athlete in high school, particularly in basketball, but was not a volleyball player.”
Amanda also tried her hand at track (100, 200 and relays) and tennis in high school (Avon), but never won a track event or excelled in tennis. “Actually, I ran track and played tennis just to stay in shape for volleyball,” she said. “I still play tennis today, but just for fun.”
Hess played on an Indianapolis volleyball team that finished fifth in the Junior Olympic Nationals at Louisville, Ky. By that time, she was highly acclaimed in the sport.
“I guess about 50 schools contacted me in the initial recruiting process,” she said. “I narrowed it down to the Big Ten schools and Georgia Tech. When I visited Tech, I really liked the players and the coaches. That’s why I came here.”
She says it was the right decision, that so far she has found the Tech experience to be everything she wanted, from the volleyball excellence to the management courses to the warm climate and all the things the big city of Atlanta has to offer.
Maybe, sooner or later, she’ll even come across a piano here. It seems that’s the only thing missing.