Serving It Up With ... Amanda Gil

July 15, 2009

The first of a two-part feature with sophomore middle blocker Amanda Gil. In the first installment, the reigning Pacific Region and Pacific-10 Conference Freshman of the Year talks about her transition from high school to college, when she started playing volleyball and what she's been up to this summer.

UCLABruins.com: What was the hardest thing about transitioning from high school volleyball to college?

Amanda Gil: The hardest thing was the speed of the game. High school is a lot slower. You have to be much faster in college. You have to be on time or you're going to get blocked. The high school that I went to (Archbishop Mitty in San Jose) though had some high-caliber athletes, so I got used to the college game and the hard practices quicker.

.com: How has it been adjusting to college life in general?

AG: It was so hard. My brother is younger than me, so I never had to share a room with someone, so that was different. Food is a big thing too. I'm used to having home cooked meals all the time and not eating the same thing over and over. Just not having someone pick you up from school and talking to you all day or at home sitting on the couch watching TV. You have none of that. You're on your own.

.com: Besides family and friends, what do you miss the most about home?

AG: My bed. When I was at home, when my parents got a new mattress, I'd get the old one. So I always had a king-sized bed. And I come here in the dorms and I have a twin. It's the worst thing ever. My feet hang off the bed. I've tried to sleep sideways, but it doesn't work. I'm just too big for my bed.

.com: The tallest person on the team at 6-foot-6, have you always been the tallest person in a room?

AG: In school, I was always the tallest. But my dad is 7-feet tall. It's strange sometimes when we walk together because we are so close in height that people think he's my husband, but I tell them 'No, he's my dad!' It's even worse with my brother (5-foot-1), because they think he's my kid.

.com: When did you start playing volleyball?

AG: When I was 12. I had played basketball at first, but it was hard on my body. I was getting beat up and punched because I was so much bigger and taller than everyone else and I would get called for fouls even though I barely touched the person. But I found out that in volleyball there was a net between you and your opponent. My mom taught me how to play and she took me to my first tryout. Once I started playing, I loved it. I made the 14 gold team and I've been playing ever since.

.com: What is it like being coached by one of the legends of volleyball in Andy Banachowski?

AG: It's amazing. Just to know that he's been around volleyball for so long. You have so much to learn from him. He's been in probably every situation in volleyball that you can expect. He knows what to tell you and how to calm you down. He's just a great coach and I'm so lucky to have him.

.com: Your club and high school teammate Lainey Gera is on the team. Was the transition of moving away from home made easier with her here?

AG: It's been perfect having her here. Having someone here that has been through the same experiences you've had and that knows you helps a lot because you have one solid person you can run to if you need something. I've known her since I was 11. We've played on the same club team, the same high school and now the same college. We both miss San Jose and we get to talk about our experiences and have someone to talk or cry to if you miss home. She has a great personality.

.com: What have you been up to this summer?

AG: I've been training with our strength coach (Ray Weisenbarger) and our nutritionist Becci Twombley has been helping with my eating habits. I've been getting a lot of rest. I haven't been playing volleyball to get away from it for a while, because it's year around for us and the only time off is during the summer. And I'm taking Stats 10, which is the hardest class I've ever taken in my life.

.com: Next month you will begin preseason practices with the team's annual trip to Mammoth. What happens on that trip?

AG: We do a lot of team bonding. We go there to have no distractions. The coaches take away our phones and that's hard. It was so hard last year because you miss your family and you want someone to talk to and you're not really comfortable with the girls yet. So you're like 'Oh I want to talk to my dad', but you can't because you don't have a phone. That was really hard for me last year, not being able to talk to my dad, my mom or anyone. But you have no phones or TV, so you have to get to know the girls a lot better. And it helps because when we get back, we're so close. They're always there for you and that's a great thing about our team.

Check back on Monday for the second part of UCLABruins.com's interview with Amanda Gil.

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