Volleyball: In a New York state of mind

Former Otumoetai College student Amy Hunter is heading to New York to hang out with celebrities like "Lil D".

Before impressions of parties with Cristal-popping rappers begin to form, it must be known the aforementioned well-known personality is a mascot in the form of a Great Dane for Albany State University. Hunter, who was part of the Otumoetai College Senior A girls' volleyball team that won back-to-back silver medals at the nationals in 2011 and 2012, leaves in July on a full athletic scholarship.

But things did not always come so easily to the 18-year-old.

She played socially and never for the top teams at Otumoetai Intermediate, before the vaunted system at Otumoetai College led by Stewart Henderson accelerated her development.

"At college it was really good. We had trials straight away and then from there it was just training and then going away to tournament," said Hunter.

She made the top junior side in Year 9 and by the end of the year was under the guidance of Henderson.

"As soon as I got Stu it was huge," Hunter said.

"He was so good and helpful, and he coached the A team as well. He coached the New Zealand team and Tauranga Women, and he treated us like them, not like we were 14."

By Year 11 Hunter had forced her way into all of Henderson's sides, including the top Tauranga Women's side and New Zealand U19s, and before long was eyeing spots further afield.

"I heard about scholarships, though I'm not too sure how it came up.

"I started playing club stuff when I was 15, and Stu must have said something about Shannen Bagge and Taina Savage playing in America. I got interested and he told me they went on scholarship and from there I decided that's something I wanted," Hunter said.

A pair of overseas trips with the college - to Melbourne in Year 11 and to the US state of Iowa in Year 13 - gave Hunter the courage to look for a future playing overseas and allowed her to play in the presence of eager scouts.

University of Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon, a New Zealander and former coach of both the US men's and women's teams, was among those enquiring about Hunter's plans.

Things with Minnesota did not work out, so Hunter made the decision to study psychology at Albany State in New York State instead.

Hunter would not be drawn on whether the current side would beat those she was such an integral part of during her final years of school.

"Every team is different. The team we had when I was in Year 13 was good, but we were a different kind of good."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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