Athlete Spotlight: Amanda Colla

Spearheading this season’s Triton offense is senior outside hitter Amanda Colla. She is a big reason why UC San Diego is 9–3 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and tied atop the South Division with Cal State San Bernardino. When she’s not on the court, Colla studies physiology and neuroscience at Eleanor Roosevelt College. But when she’s on the court, she excels as a team captain and has garnered several awards over the season, being named one-time CCAA Player of the Week, Reis Cup MVP and D-2 West Region Volleyball Showcase All-Tournament Team among others.

A product of San Diego and native of Carlsbad, Amanda Colla joined the Tritons as a freshman and immediately made an impact as an outside hitter, starting 24 out of 26 games, essentially subbing in for then-junior Danielle Dahle who got injured in the very first game of the season. “That one play is forever ingrained in my mind,” Colla said. “She walked off the court, her eyebrow was bleeding, her eye was already swollen, and Coach just looked at me and just said ‘You’re in.’ I was put in so immediately that I didn’t really have time to overthink anything which helped me a lot, especially with it being my first game that I ever played. Once I got out of my own head, I was just able to play volleyball.”

From that first year playing, she remembers, “Overall I was coming into playing college volleyball, I thought I would be able to just outhit a lot of the blocks, but since they were so much bigger than playing against 18 year olds, that was a hard thing to keep in my head, that I can’t beat them and that they’ll just beat me straight down. [But I was able] to add more shots into what I can hit instead of just one right down the middle.” She also credits UCSD head coach Ricci Luyties with the smooth transition. “I knew Coach from Club Volleyball. He was one of the coaches at the club where I played for [in high school]. I started just emailing Coach with videos of me playing from my high school and my club teams. […] Then he offered me a spot on the team, and I took some time to think about that, but ultimately I ended up deciding to come here. Him being able to see all my potential as a freshman gave me a lot of confidence, and him knowing that I would be able to play all four years definitely helped my mental game. He knows so much about the sport.”

Colla made her mark as an outside hitter in her freshman campaign, but things went in a different direction her second year, when she played at libero, a more defensive position. All she did that season was total 560 digs —  second most in UCSD’s history. Colla later in her career reached the millennium mark, a feat she says serves as motivation to get to the top three [in UCSD history in digs] by the end of her career.

After Dahle, arguably one of the best players ever to play for the Tritons, graduated, Colla stepped into more of a leadership position. “It’s not one big lesson, it’s more a little help here and a little help there, and I think that’s where they grow the most,” she said, describing this new role.

As a graduating senior, Colla also spoke candidly about the end of her collegiate career. “Being close to graduation is a little scary and close to the end of volleyball is also very scary because I don’t want to ever stop playing. I try to never think about it because thinking about stopping playing volleyball and especially to stopping playing with this team is hard to think about.”

While she once considered going to play abroad as an option, she now believes her health is no longer holding up. “My shoulder’s hurting, back’s hurting, knees’ hurting, so I just think that this is the last year of volleyball for me. I need to focus on progressing my life, different grad schools, different jobs that I want to do and just more life experiences that way.”

Even after graduating, Colla will always be able to look back at her four years as a Triton, when volleyball “has become such a big part of my life, and they [the UCSD team] have woven into who I am as a person, so volleyball has just shaped me in so many ways that I don’t think it will ever be gone, but just the physical aspect will not be there.” There’s even one game in particular that she’ll keep in mind. The setting is the Western Region quarter-finals, in Colla’s second season. Sonoma State, recently crowned CCAA regular season and tournament champion, stands in the Tritons’ path. UC San Diego had already lost to Sonoma State during the season, but Colla believed they would win, saying “I knew we were gonna win, it wasn’t even a possibility that we would lose. So the moment when their outside hitter finally hit the ball out and we had won the match still sends shivers down my spine, because I can just think of everyone and how happy we were and it’s just forever ingrained.”

The Tritons have five more games to play before the CCAA Tournament in San Francisco, which they have a good chance of making. From then on, it’ll be “survive and advance” for Colla and Co. For the senior class, setter Rachel Linden, middle blocker Rebecca Seaberry, and Colla, this means that there are only a couple of home games remaining on Friday Oct. 27 against Cal State Monterey Bay and Oct. 28 against Cal State East Bay — leave it up to Colla to enjoy every last minute of them.