NORTH RIDGEVILLE — It didn’t take long for this year’s Lorain County Miss Volleyball committee to decide on a winner.
Avon’s libero Erin Gardner was the hands-down selection. Gardner was the key player on the Eagles’ state-ranked and Southwestern Conference co-championship team.
“I had no idea this was coming,” Gardner said. “In the past it’s been like hitters. I didn’t really expect it.”
The award, sponsored and presented by Burger King, was awarded to Gardner by Elizabeth Hanson, director of training. Burger King has sponsored the award for the entire 32 years it has existed. It’s the third time the winner was from Avon. Rosie Schneider took home the honors in 1989 and Elizabeth Zollos won in 2014.
Gardner shouldn’t have been surprised. Defense was Avon’s key component and Gardner literally had a hand in that effort. She averaged 4.5 digs per set and finished her career with well over 1,500 digs. She’s a four-year letterwinner — all at the libero position. An all-around player, Gardner was over 90 percent on serve reception and serving. She had 27 aces. She also had 76 assists.
“She’s one of the best players ever to go through Avon,” Eagles coach Julie Bendzuck said. “That in itself speaks volumes. She could have played any position for us since her freshman year when she came in. We needed defense and that’s where we put her. She’s just an all-around, amazing volleyball player.”
Avon finished 22-3 overall and 17-1 in the SWC, tying Amherst for the title for the second straight season. The Eagles were ranked No. 20 in the state’s final poll, taking three-time district champion St. Joseph to four games before losing. St. Joes advanced to the state final before being beaten by Cincinnati Ursuline Academy.
“She controlled our team and not in a negative way,” Bendzuck said. “It was more like a comforting way. I knew when Erin 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.”
Avon’s only losses came against Dublin-Coffman, Amherst and St. Joseph – all state-ranked teams.
“It means a whole lot to be successful,” Gardner said. “It makes it a lot more fun. I’ve had really great coaches and really great teammates all four years. I met a lot of them when we were really little growing up. There’s so much talent in Lorain County. I really feel so blessed.”
Gardner not only excels in volleyball but in the classroom as well. She holds a 4.0 GPA and will continue her volleyball career at Kent State University next year. Both schoolwork and the potential to continue playing volleyball are criteria in the selection process.
The honors have been piling up for Gardner. She’s been All-SWC all four years, including being named the conference MVP this season. She was Lorain County’s Player of the Year in 2017 and was first-team all-county three of the four years she played.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Miss Volleyball Winners
- 1985 Angie Riggins Elyria
- 1986 Jennifer Smith Midview
- 1987 Rebecca Yarish Elyria Catholic
- 1988 Monica Taylor Elyria
- 1989 Rosie Schneider Avon
- 1990 Amy Schloss Elyria
- 1991 Kearsten Yarish Elyria Catholic
- 1992 Marin Ferlic Lorain Catholic
- 1993 Becky Paukst Elyria West
- 1994 Jodie Williams Elyria
- 1995 Sarah Simmons Avon Lake
- 1996 Erinn Kingman Elyria
- 1997 Rachel Beran Firelands
- 1998 Jenn Snyder Elyria
- 1999 Jessy Verhoff Elyria
- 2000 Laura Sidorowicz Amherst Steele
- 2001 Lisa Verhoff Elyria
- 2002 Courtney Gilbert Midview
- 2003 Mel Snyder Amherst Steele
- 2004 Kate Verhoff Elyria
- 2005 Kelly Ruth Elyria
- 2006 Ashley Yuhas Elyria
- 2007 Courtney Jarvis Amherst Steele
- 2008 Amanda Medvetz Elyria
- 2009 Zoe Zwegart Elyria Catholic
- 2010 Deme Morales Amherst Steele
- 2011 Sarah Kaminski Elyria Catholic
- 2012 Whitney Craigo Avon Lake
- 2013 Katie Mihalik Avon Lake
- 2014 Elizabeth Zollos Avon
- 2015 Ashley Makruski Amherst
- 2016 Jessie Lee Elyria
- 2017 Erin Gardner Avon