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updated: 9/2/2011 10:54 AM

Lake Zurich's Orchard stands tall -- in volleyball

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  • Lake Zurich's Amanda Orchard rises above the net opposite Mundelein's Gina Withrow last season.

      Lake Zurich's Amanda Orchard rises above the net opposite Mundelein's Gina Withrow last season.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer

By Bill Pemstein
Daily Herald Correspondent

What happened when Lake Zurich senior Amanda Orchard officially fell in love with volleyball?

The softball team lost a pretty good infielder. And the basketball team dropped a good inside scorer.

In better news, Matt Aiello's talented volleyball team received its best player.

"Amanda has started on my varsity squad since the day she showed up as a freshman," Aiello said. "She is one of those rare athletes who doesn't come around too often. As naturally talented as she is, she is an even harder worker. She simply works to be the best."

It's not like Orchard found a spot on the volleyball team and stuck with it.

As a freshman, she played on the right side. Her sophomore season, she was Lake Zurich's middle hitter. And finally a year ago, she moved outside to take advantage of her ball-blasting skills.

Aiello knows Orchard isn't one to scream commands to her teammates. She leads by example.

"Amanda is not the rah-rah type of player," Aiello said.

"She wants her actions to speak for her. She carries a quiet confidence about her and has that confidence because she knows how much work she has put in. When Amanda speaks, her teammates listen."

Of course the news is out that the University of Pittsburgh wants her to play college volleyball. Orchard will play Division I volleyball next season.

With her scholarship hunt over, the senior can turn her attention to her final Lake Zurich team. A year ago, the Bears won 26 games but fell short in a sectional loss to Stevenson.

"This summer and early fall, she has really taken over the huddle and has the respect of all of her teammates," Aiello said.

"They know she would rather share the attention and that she is 100 percent about team. It makes coaching really easy when a great player exemplifies and expects a great effort every practice, point, and play."

A season ago, Orchard banged out 307 kills to lead the Bears. She also showed she didn't mind playing defense with 221 digs. Even moving outside, she had time for 51 blocks. And her serve produced 37 aces.

Aiello feels Orchard made a fine choice to continue her education and her playing days. She was a three-sport varsity athlete as both a freshman and sophomore, but gave up basketball and softball her junior year to focus on volleyball.

"(Pittsburgh) seems like a great place for her," Aiello said. "She really loves the coaching staff over there, and through the conversations I have had with them and Amanda, it is a great match for both parties."

On the court, Orchard is a picture of confidence. Her hits can be considered dangerous to opposing teams. Aiello is glad that Orchard's college plans are cemented. And now he can watch his star in action on a nightly basis.

"With the pressure of the college situation out of the way, she can just go out and play with her friends and teammates," he said. "Amanda has some big goals for her team this year. When Amanda sets her mind to something, she tends to make it happen.

"I am really excited for Amanda this season."