Amber Roberson’s dad played professional basketball overseas. Her mom played four years of volleyball at New Mexico State. Her older sister, Ashlee, garnered Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades as a basketball player at Texas Tech. And her high school coach, Demetria Sance-Padgitt, may be the greatest volleyball player to don a Longhorn uniform.
Most people with a background like Roberson might morph into a tightly-wound, forever rowning character. Yet the 6-foot-2-inch junior outside hitter maintains a constant calm, especially off the court.
“I’m kind of a go-with-the-flow [person],” Roberson said. “I’m usually pretty chill and relaxed.”
Heading into today’s matchup at Oklahoma, Roberson’s on-court performance has been anything but chill or relaxed. The San Antonio native has averaged 11.5 kills in the last four games, tying her career high of 13 twice as the Longhorns have gone 3-1 with the lone loss being to third- ranked Nebraska in Lincoln.
“Really, I don’t pay attention to numbers,” Roberson said. “I want to go out there and do what I need to do and try and help my team. [The statistics] kind of follow along with what I’m doing.”
Roberson was supposed to be a crucial part of the team’s new 5-1 offense from the start of the season but struggled with finding consistency. After freshman outside hitter Ashley Bannister became sidelined with an injury, Roberson made her way back into the starting lineup and has not looked back.
“I know in the beginning of the season, I was forcing it, so things just weren’t happening,” Roberson said. “At some point in the season, I just told myself, ‘All I have to do is play volleyball.’ That’s when I settled down a little bit more and got comfortable.”
Comfort is something head coach Jerritt Elliott has noticed Roberson achieve in the last few weeks. Elliott said Roberson’s game against Kansas State over the weekend was her best as a Longhorn, as she complemented her 10 kills with a solid defensive effort in the backcourt.
“The way she played in that match was great,” Elliott said. “For Amber, it’s about her getting comfortable with herself. We’ve always told her she has so much potential, and it’s more about her getting comfortable and believing in what we believe in. It’s been nice to see.”
Part of Roberson’s increased calm on the court can be attributed to contributions from the team’s leader, Juliann Faucette, who’s played a big part in not only accommodating the freshmen to the college campus but also in helping former role players ease into starting positions. Roberson and Faucette also teamed up in 2009 for the Collegiate Beach Nationals.
The duo, both outside hitters, gets together during pregame and writes down goals in the form of “trigger words” to focus on through the game.
“They’re just reminders so if we do need a reminder, we know which word we’re talking about and what that means,” Faucette said. “We want to make sure we’re doing the best we can.”
For example, the word “speed” serves as a reminder to move their feet and get to the ball faster.
In turn, Roberson has been working on increasing her own leadership skills and improving her decision-making on the court.
“I try to be more vocal,” Roberson said. “That way [Faucette] won’t have it all on her shoulders. And also, try to make smarter choices with the ball.”
And while Roberson’s emergence has been sudden and her performance dominant, she promises that she can get a lot better.
“I’m pretty sure there’s a whole lot more you can see,” Roberson. “It’s just a way of me bringing it out and [putting together] pieces.”