Roemeling finds a role

Posted: Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not all good volleyball players are born with top-flight athleticism, blazing speed, tremendous hitting power and height, or a jaw-dropping vertical leap.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

More often than not - especially on the prep level - brains over brawn, a tenacious work ethic, an adept understanding of the game and a strong belief in oneself can take a player a long, long way.

Juneau-Douglas 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter Amanda Roemeling embodies that sentiment. Sure, powerful kills and big blocks up front draw the oohs and ahhs of the crowd, but everyone has a role to fill.

And Roemeling has found her niche as a key contributor for the Crimson Bears' volleyball team as it prepares to face Chugiak on Thursday in the opening round of the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State Volleyball Championships.

"Amanda works very hard. She's very thoughtful about what she's doing. She works to make the changes that need to be made, and it's made a difference for her," JDHS coach Sandi Wagner said. "She doesn't get down on herself, and she doesn't get down on her teammates. She does her job and she does it well. She knows what her job is and she's worked hard to get to that point."

And it's been a long road for Roemeling, a road that comes to an end this weekend in Wasilla.

The journey began her freshman year as a setter for the Crimson Bears' C Team. The Juneau-Douglas volleyball program doesn't make cuts, so there were 60-plus girls vying for just 12 spots on the region and state tournament varsity rosters this year.

Roemeling found herself on the C Team again as sophomore -¿when the pre-Thunder Mountain program had more than 100 girls - and she played several different positions.

As a junior, she was promoted to junior varsity as a middle hitter. With seniors Sarah Tarver and Taylor Larson firmly entrenched in the middle for the Bears' varsity for the 2010 season, Roemeling had to switch positions again if she wanted to see playing time at the highest level.

"I was a middle hitter last year so knowing that Sarah and Taylor were really strong, I knew that if I wanted to make a good spot on the varsity I'd have to switch to outside hitter," Roemeling said. "So I went to camp over the summer and really focused on hitting outside to try and get better."

It was at camp at the University of Washington where it all started to come together for her, but she almost didn't make it.

"I wasn't sure about going because college is coming up and I needed to get a job and I was worried about school, so I wasn't sure how dedicated I was going to be," she said. "Somebody couldn't go to the camp so they brought it up to me and I felt like it was a second chance that I couldn't pass up, like it was meant to be for me to go."

Roemeling said her confidence began to grow along with her grasp of the game.

"I think I just mainly focused and concentrated on what I was doing wrong and what I could improve on," she said. "And then I made sure since this was my senior year, I wanted it to be a good year so I worked for it. I knew if I wanted to be on varsity, I'd have to work as hard as I could to get there."

Coming up as an underclassman, starting for one of the top teams in the state wasn't something she was sure would ever happen. But here she is, a key player on a team that went 12-0 in match play this season and 5-2 in best-of-three tournament play, with a first-round matchup against Chugiak on Thursday.

"I always hoped for it," she chuckled as a smile spread across her face. "I always hoped and wished that I could make the varsity team, and I'm just really glad that I got the chance. It's kind of nerve wracking going into state because it's my first time ever being at state for any sport.

"It's nerve wracking but at the same time, I've gotten to know the girls really well and we help each other out on the court," she continued. "So I know that if I do make mistakes, they'll be there to watch my back and help cover me."

Roemeling currently has 92 kills, good for fourth most on the team, 143 digs and 29 aces, providing a complimentary, steadying force throughout the season.

Aside from volleyball, she also competes in track and field, is an outstanding student with a grade-point average better than 3.5, an outdoors enthusiast and a future orthodontist, though she hasn't yet chosen a college.

"I want to be an orthodontist. I just thought it was an interesting job to get into because when I had braces, I'd ask them all sorts of questions about what they were doing and why," she explained. "And I took human anatomy and the medical field, I've always been interested in that."

"Hard work" were the first two words Wagner used to describe Roemeling. And most well-rounded individuals oftentimes aren't the ones with the flashiest skill set or freakish athleticism. Roemeling's workmanlike attitude is a perfect compliment to the other big hitters the Bears have, and exactly what JDHS needs at a key position on the court.

Whether the work the team has put in this year is enough to bring home a state championship is anyone's guess. But win or lose, Roemeling's improvement has paid major dividends for her and the team. And the girls can go into the tournament knowing they'll put their best foot forward.

"We need to make sure we're focused and play our hearts out," Roemeling said of the Bears' chances in the coming days. "Last year, they said that they fell apart in the end. But this year, I think we have very good team support and motivation within each other. We'll help each other push forward to bring out the best within us."

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