Rodriguez takes volleyball career to college

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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Photo by Alastair Baker
(Second right) Amya Rodriguez signs for MSU-Billings on a volleyball scholarship. With her, left to right, Kevin Nickels, RLHS Volleyball Coach Sara Ewald and assistant volleyball coach Kate Belinda.

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We expect to hear more good things about Red Lodge High School Senior Amya Rodriguez when she goes on to college next fall. On Friday, Nov. 16, the champion player signed a NCAA National Letter of Intent to play volleyball with Montana State University, Billings. The signing took place at Red Lodge High School.

She will now become a Lady Yellowjacket after playing at Red Lodge High School where she is a senior.

Rodriguez spoke about her journey moving up from Texas as a sophomore. “Since I was a freshman I played softball in Texas but there’s no softball at Red Lodge High School.” So she chose volleyball which she also enjoyed. 

“I came up a year after they were state champs. I thought, “I’d like to experience that!” She worked hard to help her team get there. She stayed late, came in before practices. She achieved the Libero position. “With most positions you can only go in for one person, but a Libero must go in. You stay in the back row.”

It’s the best passer position she explained, “I’m too short to hit.” 

Rodriguez; a 5’3” senior has played the Libero position for the Lady Rams volleyball team for the last three seasons, and was first in conference this season in total digs of 170 and tied first place at 5.2 digs per set. Rodriguez also posted a personal best against Forsyth with 31 digs. 

She has also played the Libero position for 406-Mix club team based out of Laurel Montana and their team won 4 out of 7 tournaments in the state of Montana in the Spring of 2018.

Rodriguez is the granddaughter of Melvin and Sandra Haisler of Red Lodge.

Kevin Nickels who coached Amya when she was a sophomore “worked with her even after practice. He would come early and worked and worked with her and was a real big part of her success,” said Sandra.

“He went above and beyond the call of duty,” she said.

Amya’s ex-coaches at Red Lodge also sang her praises.

“I’m really happy for her,” said Nickels. “She is going to be really good in college. She has a lot of potential.”

“When she walked in to the gym as a sophomore, we knew there was something special about her,” said volleyball coach Sara Ewald.

Assistance volleyball coach Kate Belinda said Amya will be one of those college students that will excel in academics and sports. 

In Texas, Rodriguez noted, “I was the setter, second string. That’s the person who usually takes the ball and sets it up for the hitter to hit.”

She spoke of her love of the game. “It’s just like whenever I’m playing or practicing, I forget about everything-stress, school, college, moving out. If I didn’t have volleyball in college, I’d feel emptier!” 

She attributes volleyball in high school as helping her to work. “I have volleyball so life’s not too bad!” 

Amya was part of the Lady Rams All State Volleyball Champion team in 2016 and was named All State Honorable Mention as a sophomore. She has since been elected to the All-Conference Teams her junior and senior year.

And now she said, “I get to keep on with my volleyball career.”

She’d love to play for the Olympics but doesn’t believe she’s good enough although, “I’d love to do that!” She’s thrilled just to be playing. “It’s just a great opportunity for me.”

In Rodriguez’s sophomore year, the Rams won State.  “Oh, it’s one of the top three experiences of my life!” she exclaimed. “It’s a sense we are the best in Class B in the State! It’s definitely a huge accomplishment. Your heart beats and all ou want to do is cry! Especially running on court, that last point! The whole team with you! It’s definitely the best experience!”

When she goes to college she know the lifestyle will be different. In fact, it will be even more intense for volleyball. “You’re a lot more closer. Just to be part of a team in college is much different.” She explained, “I have a friend in volleyball in college. You eat, sleep and breathe volleyball! You still have to keep up with school work.”

That work is no minor task. Rodriguez plans to study business management and minor in marketing. She hopes to go on to Butte to study petroleum engineering for graduate work. 

It is a great help that the MSU volleyball coach is already a good friend. “Casey Williams is the head coach at Billings. Ever since I moved here I went to a lot of volleyball camps. I always wanted to play with her. She has a really nice personality a good style, I’ve heard nothing but good things. At the camps, we talked.” 

At MSU, the whole volleyball team rooms together in the dorm. Rodriguez is not worried about making friends. “The whole team is automatically kind of your friend!”

Rodriguez says she will still have to work summers but hopes as her playing improves, so will the scholarships. She is determined to succeed and feels she is on her way with all the right encouragement. She said RLHS volleyball was very difficult at times but never enough to contemplate not playing. She is inspired to get better and better. 

For girls contemplating trying volleyball, she encourages them to play. “It’s a really good experience for any girl in high school. It’s something a lot different than other team sports like basketball. It has to be the whole team. One person can’t carry the whole team. It definitely gives confidence. When you do something, a really good thing-a hitter slams it to the ground! Yes! We did it! I did that, they did that! It’s a lot of fun!”