Avon’s Gardner named Miss Volleyball
Four-year starter totaled 299 career digs, is bound for Kent State
Avon senior Erin Gardner received Lorain County’s highest volleyball honor Nov. 14 when she was named 2017 Miss Volleyball at the Lorain County Coaches Association All-Star Game.
Gardner becomes the third Avon athlete to be named Miss Volleyball since the first award was given out in 1985. Rosie
Schneider received the award in 1989 and, most recently, Liz Zollos won in 2014.
“There’s so much talent in Lorain County and I just feel so blessed and happy that I could receive this award,” Gardner said.
Gardner was a four-year starter for the Eagles and led the team to a back-to-back Southwestern Conference championship and its third straight district finals appearance.
In 67 regular-season sets, she totaled 299 digs (4.5 per set) and had five games with 20-plus digs, had 76 assists and was over 90 percent in both serving and serve receive.
On top of that, Gardner earned Lorain County Division I Player of the Year, Southwestern Conference Player of
the Year and first-team alldistrict for District 3.
But it’s not her statistics that set the Kent Statebound defensive specialist apart from the competition. According to Avon coach Julie Bendzuck, it’s her passion and commitment to the game.
“There’s certain things you can coach and certain things you can’t coach, and when you go to college she’s going to be among other scholarship athletes, but I feel the one thing that’s going to separate her is her extreme passion for this game,” Bendzuck said. “It’s every time she steps on this court . ... You can try to get that out of kids but that’s just something that has to come from within yourself and that’s just the type of person she is.”
Gardner grew up in Avon and has gone through the Eagles’ volleyball program since middle school. When she entered her freshman year, Bendzuck said the 5-foot-5 Gardner could have played any position, but at the time the team was lacking in defense. The coaches worked her in the back row and it has been paying off for Avon ever since.
“I’ve been in Avon since, like, kindergarten,” Gardner said. “Growing up I would go to the Little Eagles camps and do all that fun stuff and just one day hope to be on the varsity court.”
“She’s one of the best players to ever go through Avon, so I think that in itself speaks volumes,” Bendzuck added. “She could have played any position for us but since her freshman year when she came in we needed defense so that’s kind of where we put here. Clearly that’s definitely her strength. but she’s just an all-around amazing volleyball player . ... I knew when she was on the court we were going to have energy, we were going to get the job done and we were going to play with passion.
“Everyone loves the hitters, everyone loves the setters, but she plays fearlessly and, as a libero, that’s what you want.”
Gardner will head to Kent State in January after graduating early from Avon, but before she leaves, she hopes to impart that fearless attitude on her teammates and future Eagles who have watched her from the stands all these years.
“I just hope I left behind a ‘no regrets’ attitude when you’re on the court,” Gardner said. “Because at the end of the day, it’s going to end some time, so you want to have no regrets and give everything you have every time you step on the court.”
Miss Volleyball Erin Gardner serves during the All-Star game.