Esther Amos picked up volleyball as a sixth grader as a favor to her friend. Six years later, the Albemarle High School senior has developed into one of the top middle hitters in Central Virginia.
Last week, Amos registered 20 kills in 27 swings to lead the Patriots’ volleyball team to back-to-back Jefferson District victories over Monticello and Orange County. She had a team-high 12 kills for Albemarle in a 3-1 come-from-behind victory against the Mustangs to earn Schewels Athlete of the Week honors.
“Esther has the highest touch reach on the team and can often hit the ball over the block,” Albemarle volleyball coach Mark Ragland said. “When she gets in a groove, she can truly dominate a match.”
Last year, Ragland recalled a match against Powhatan where Amos posted 14 kills and just one error and completely dominated the match against the Indians. She currently leads the team in kill percentage (.382) and is second in kills (68) and blocks (16).
“She is a tough player to stop because she hits the ball at such a high point and has the ability to hit good angles around blocks,” Ragland said. “Because she plays middle, it is sometimes tough to get the number of sets we’d like for her to have, because passing has to be more accurate to get her the ball. But when we do, it usually turns out to be a very good thing for our team.”
The journey to stardom at Albemarle has been a unique one for Amos. She was born in Nigeria and lived there for three years before her parents moved to Virginia. Her father, Samson, worked as a research scientist at the University of Virginia’s Department of Pathology for nine years before accepting a job as the associated professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cedarville University in Ohio in 2013.
Growing up, Esther said her main athletic focus was basketball. She played recreation leagues and enjoyed it. At the age of 11, she was introduced to volleyball by a friend and encouraged to try out.
“I didn’t know much about the sport, but my friend told me to try out with her so that’s exactly what I did,” Amos said. “I soon realized that I loved volleyball so much and I wasn’t too bad at it either.’
Two years later, Amos’ family moved to Ohio and her passion for the sport continued.
“When I moved to Ohio, I thought that, if anything, I would try out for the eighth-grade basketball team, but God had other plans for me,” Amos said. “I actually tried out for the volleyball team and haven’t played basketball ever since. I got this exhilarating feeling from playing volleyball and I loved the energy in the gym when a player got a block or kill.”
Amos and her family returned to Charlottesville in time for her junior year and she enrolled at Albemarle. Amos admitted that she had some butterflies heading into the first day of volleyball tryouts.
“Honestly, when we moved back, I was extremely nervous to try out and I knew it would be competitive,” she said. “When I made the team, I grew to know each of the girls and it was such an amazing feeling returning to Charlottesville and playing with all of them. Returning back to the area was one of the best decisions my family had ever made and it’s so incredible to play for Albemarle.”
Ragland was impressed, too.
“When she showed up for tryouts her junior year, I had no idea who she was or that she was re-enrolling at Albemarle,” he said. “Needless to say, it was a very pleasant surprise.’
The Albemarle senior has flourished in her time on varsity and enjoys the one-on-one battles at the net.
“Sometimes, I think that getting a big block on the opponent’s best hitter feels even better than hitting a ball straight down that no one can pick up,” Amos said. “When you get that block straight down, the energy in the gym is almost electric and the pace of the game increases.”
But she also understands the importance of staying grounded on the court as well.
“When I get blocked, mentally, I tell myself that I need to hit sharper angles,” she said. “I tell myself to make sure that I am watching the blocker’s hands and finding where the holes are so that I don’t get blocked again.”
Amos said her position requires a lot of communication, calling out formations and schemes.
“Every time I am up at the net, I call out where the setter is, who I have and how many hitters are there,” Amos said. “As a middle, or any position on the court, you have to hold your teammates accountable and display a positive attitude, despite what is going on in the game.”
Playing for a perennial volleyball powerhouse doesn’t hurt either. The Patriots are the gold standard in Central Virginia by which all programs are measured. Amos said that commitment to excellence motivates her.
“Playing any sport for Albemarle automatically puts a target on your back, but the program has earned it over many years, so I definitely embrace it,” she said. “It’s a compliment to know that people believe you are a competitive team and to know that we have this positive reputation because of the people who played before us. I definitely embrace the pressure, because I know I have to work harder, which just makes me a better player in the end.”
Amos said she models her game after Chiaka Ogbogu, a two-time all-American volleyball player at the University of Texas.
“We have such a similar life story,” Amos said. “Her parents had moved from Nigeria seeking a better opportunities, which was exactly what my parents did. She started off playing basketball but grew to love volleyball.”
“When watching her hit and block as a middle for Texas, I wanted to play just as well as she did,” Amos continued. “You could tell she had a caring heart and was a loving person, on and off the court, which is what I strived to be like every day.”
Off the court, Amos is a fixture in the community, both in and outside of school. She is on the Key Club executive board for community service. In addition, she participated in the school’s Habitat for Humanity which raised nearly $45,000 last year during its annual Rake-a-Thon that was used to build a house in the area.
Amos volunteers at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and this summer she had the opportunity to meet with a homeowner and hear their story.
“The reason I love volunteering is because I know that not everyone may get the opportunity like I did,” she said. “So, I work to create a better community where I’ve lived. That’s why I’m involved with so many community service clubs.”
She said playing sports also helps keep her grounded.
“Being a student-athlete comes with a lot of responsibility and time-management skills that you learn over the years,” Amos said. “Since I play volleyball [year-round], I had to prioritize my school work, social life and practice all at once, which was good for me, because I think as athletes, this sets us apart from our peers.”
A self-proclaimed “goofball,” Amos said she likes to have fun and laugh.
“Genuinely, I always have a smile on my face because one person can turn around your day,” she said. “You truly don’t know what someone had been through that morning or day, so if I can make their day brighter, just with a smile, then that’s what I try to do.”
Academically, Amos enjoys math and english and would like to pursue a career in business. She plans to major in marketing, business administration or international business to become an advertising manager for clothing companies such as Nike, Pac Sun or Urban Outfitters. In addition, she would also like to minor in Spanish.
College coaches have also expressed interest in her volleyball abilities, including SUNY Oneonta at a recent club tournament in Washington, D.C.
“I think it would be so much fun to pursue volleyball in college,” Amos said. “But I don’t think it’s the right path for me.”
Ragland is happy she’s a part of his team.
“Esther had a great attitude and her teammates and coaches adore her,” he said. “She’s an extremely strong student. She is very laid back and jovial off the court and had a great sense of humor.”