October 7, 2009 11:17:00 AM
Throughout high school, Amber Owen heard she''d never play college volleyball.
At 4-foot-11 1/2, Owen was relegated to playing on the junior varsity volleyball team at Caledonia High School and it looked like college volleyball wouldn''t be in her future.
"It hurt a lot because I knew I had the potential and I had the ability to play and I wasn''t really given that chance," Owen said. "I was looking for a small (college) so I could play volleyball, or at least try, because everybody told me I would never play college volleyball."
Four years after graduating from Caledonia High, Owen is thriving in the sport she loves.
Three weeks ago, Owen, a senior libero at Judson College in Marion, Ala., was chosen the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Volleyball Player of the Week.
Owen had 77 digs and a kill in two matches to become the first player at Judson College to earn national player of the week honors.
"I''ve been pushing for something like this for so long," Owen said. "It just means a lot to me. It''s a big honor. I take it with pride. It''s probably the best thing that can happen to anybody in volleyball. It''s a big honor."
Owen received a certificate she is framing for her mother and a T-shirt for being the national player of the week.
Judson College honored Owen by displaying her accomplishment on a bulletin board in the lobby of one of the school''s buildings.
"Amber is the first one in our volleyball program to earn player of the week," Judson College coach Rebecca Tipton said. "It''s helped the program a great deal. It gave a lot of confidence to the rest of our players. It''s given them something to work for."
Owen believes the honor validates her belief she could play at the college level.
"I had something to prove to probably everyone," Owen said. "Not many girls my size get to play college ball, much less get to be college player of the week. It was a big accomplishment."
The accolades didn''t stop there. A week later Owen made the all-tournament team at the Pensacola (Fla.) Christian Tournament.
Through Judson''s first 13 matches this season, Owen leads the team with 525 digs.
"She''s definitely our standout player," Tipton said. "She''s changed 100 percent from last year. She came in this year as a senior and just really kicked it into high gear and stepped up for the whole program.
"Defensively last year, Amber was probably our third or fourth (best) defensive player, and this year she''s our No. 1 defensive player."
Owen believes her drive and determination to excel has helped her become Judson''s best defensive player.
"I started off loving volleyball when I first played and the love has just grown more and more each year," Owen said. "I think my talent has grown more and more each year. I guess the last five years combined of working so hard has pushed me to be the best I can be."
Owen credits Tipton, her second coach at Judson, for helping her develop into the player she''s become.
"She''s a wonderful coach," Owen said. "She''s really helped me come a long, long way. I think she''s one of the reasons I''m where I am. She gave me a lot more confidence in myself and in my ability to play."
Owen didn''t know where the road would lead her after high school, and didn''t know she''d get to play college volleyball.
The opportunity to continue to play volleyball opened when she discovered Judson College at a college fair.
"They came to a college fair and said they had volleyball," Owen said. "I went and tried out and they gave me a scholarship, so I decided to come."