This year’s Syracuse women’s volleyball team boasts players from China, Hawaii, Canada and Puerto Rico. Most of them came to Syracuse on lucrative scholarships after many years full of volleyball. This is not the case, however, for sophomore setter Amanda Kullman. Yet, as interim head coach Kelly Morrisroe puts it, “The kid’s a coach’s dream.”
The West Seneca, N.Y. native plays sparingly, but with a relentless work ethic and an uplifting attitude she garners the undying praise of coaches and teammates alike. Although Kullman was recruited to play for Syracuse, she was forced to try out as a walk-on. She made the team and has been improving her game ever since. Her rate of improvement should surprise nobody considering she only started playing competitive volleyball four years ago.
By fall of sophomore year in high school, most college-bound athletes have an idea where it is they want to be doing whatever it is they do. But Kullman is not most athletes. In fact, she picked up volleyball at the behest of her mother.
“She always encouraged me to play a fall sport, and this happened to be it,” Kullman said regarding her decision to pick up volleyball.
Kullman unofficially started to play volleyball in her backyard before moving to the Niagara Frontier Volleyball Club, the Orchard Park High School junior varsity team, the varsity bench, and finally one full-year of varsity action. The next logical step for Kullman was Syracuse.
“I think that New York State has a certain amount of hometown pride, so being able to say that I’m from here and that I will be an alumna here is really important to me,” Kullman said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s country or hip-hop or rap or anything, anything you can really sing to,” Kullman said of her pregame playlist, “Simply put, anything loud.”
For as loud as she can be during pregame, Kullman can offer a calming presence that’s hardly lost on her teammates.
“When you’re having a bad day and you come into the locker room she’s like ‘what’s wrong?,’” junior setter and co-captain Laura Homann said, “She’s helping you and then she’s like ‘alright, let’s go practice and we can deal with this after.’”
Homann is a regular in coach Morrisroe’s starting lineup, but Kullman’s influence extends deep into the team’s bench as well.
“She hasn’t seen a lot of play time in the past couple years, but you know she’s always got a smile on her face,” Morrisroe said.
“There’s a lot of people on the bench and I think Kullman just brings a lot of positive energy.”
Morrisroe also said she compliments Kullman for her role in helping the team’s nine freshmen, and these maternal instincts seem to run in the family.
“Her mom’s kind of taken over as a team mom for the other girls,” Morrisroe said.
When the team traveled to Buffalo it was Kullman’s hope that hosted the for a team meal.
But Kullman has garnered attention for more than hard work and a perpetual smile. Morrisroe was quick to praise Kullman’s naturally deft touch. Also a two semester Dean’s list student, Morrisroe attributes Kullman’s continued success to “becoming more of a student of the game.”
Kullman confirmed the speed of the game was the biggest adjustment for her as she adapted to Division I volleyball, but to her coach, her continued success is inevitable.
“She works so hard she’s going to improve,” Morrisroe said.
At the same time Kullman manages to work hard while playing hard.
“It makes practice a little more fun when you’re doing that with someone like one of your best friends,” Homann said, “If you pass the ball bad somehow it’s her fault even if she didn’t touch it.”
Yet the bond between Kullman and Homann bodes well for the future of the Orange.
“I really hope that when I leave she can set for this team,” Homann said.