Volleyball: Amy Hunter America's most wanted

By Luke Balvert

While most teenagers prepare for a summer of sunshine, surf and sand, Amy Hunter will be sitting down to make the biggest decision of her budding sporting career.

The Year 13 student at Otumoetai College has received six scholarship offers from US colleges in the states of Kansas Hawaii, New York, Arkansas, North Carolina and Minnesota following the school's trip to the USA volleyball high performance championships in Iowa in July.

She took up the sport competitively in 2009 at Otumoetai College, one of the country's best volleyball breeding grounds, which has paid dividends as a number of sporting opportunities have opened for her.

This year Hunter has spread her commitments across six teams at local, regional, national and international level with the college's A team, Bay of Plenty Under-19 team, North Island Secondary School team, Tauranga Women's A team, New Zealand Under-19 and the New Zealand Senior Women's team.

Hunter has already competed in the US, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia with these teams.

What came as a shock was the Minnesota offer came from former New Zealand volleyball legend Hugh McCutcheon, who is head coach of the University of Minnesota's women's volleyball team.

McCutcheon is a former New Zealand volleyball representative, from 1988 to 1997, as well as the former head coach of the US men's national volleyball team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He is also the former head coach of the US women's national volleyball team that won silver at this year's Olympics Games in London.

Hunter said the offers started to flow in while she was over there competing in July and when she arrived home.

"It was exciting. I was not really expecting anything straight away [following the tournament]."

To have someone of McCutcheon's reputation email her personally was inspiring.

"It's huge. I got to meet him last year when we were over in America and he was training the women's national team. It was pretty inspiring."

Hunter has family in the US and is in contact with a talent scout for Otumoetai College, who knows the ins and outs of all the potential universities, and she would also be sitting down to talk with her coach Stu Henderson.

When asked which college was in favour at the moment Hunter gave nothing away, but said she didn't have to sign anything until January.

"At first I didn't want to go anywhere cold. Then I realised I was not going there for that, I was going there for volleyball and to further my skills.

"I'm kind of going for the highest-ranked school.

Otumoetai College sport manager Jenny Kirk said Hunter joined the list of students dating back 10 years who had taken up American scholarships, including former college A and New Zealand Under-19 team mates Alyse Barclay and Melissa Cairns.

"The sport of volleyball is at a very high standard. Once they go overseas they realise they can compete on the world stage.

"It's a huge sport overseas and it continues to grow."

Mrs Kirk said athletes in America were looked after well because of the level of professionalism involved in United States sporting organisations.

"You would consider a scholarship because you want to further yourself as a student as well. Scholarships, they are a no-brainer."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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