CONCORD >> Erin Patterson is not a verbal leader.
Oh, she’ll talk. The 5-11 senior outside hitter from Garnet Valley is not afraid to say something when it needs to be said and did so on many occasions this season.
Patterson, though, preferred to let her actions do the talking, which was just the kind of leadership the Jaguars needed.
Garnet Valley was coming off the first PIAA volleyball championship in school and county history, yet it wasn’t the same team that made that historic run to the Class 4A title the year before. Patterson, libero Amber Goldberg and Dolce Whitewell were the only returnees from the 12-player championship roster.
The rest of the squad would be made up of juniors and sophomores who played mainly JV a year ago. Coach Mark Clark did not want the team to dwell on the past. He wanted it to move forward and establish its identity.
And that’s where Patterson came in. It was up to her and fellow senior Goldberg to show the way. For Patterson, the best way to do that was through actions, not words.
“She always brought high spirits to practice,” Clark said. “She’s always laughing and smiling, always positive. I’ve never heard a negative word out of the girl’s mouth. She’s never complained about anything.”
Patterson expressed those positive vibes through her actions by going after every ball, whether it was in practice or in a match. She didn’t let the team get down when the Jaguars suffered back-to-back losses to two of the top teams in District 1, Upper Merion and Pennsbury, over a three-day span in mid-September.
“I knew it was going to be a great year,” Patterson said. “The JV traveled with us last year in the state tournament. All the juniors were on JV so they got to see what it was like. And we played against them every day in practice so I knew we could go far again.”
Patterson, of course, was right. Garnet Valley overcame that bumpy start to win the Central League title for the second year in a row and advance to the PIAA Class 4A semifinals again before losing a five-set thriller to eventual state champ North Allegheny.
Patterson was instrumental in that deep run in the playoffs. She had 56 of her team-high 266 kills in the state tournament, including 25 in a 3-2 win over Hempfield and 22 in the loss to North Allegheny. Patterson averaged 18 kills per match in the playoffs.
For those accomplishments, Patterson is the 2017 Daily Times Volleyball Player of the Year. She is the second straight player from Garnet Valley and the third from the school in the last four years to receive the honor. Lizzie Herestofa won the award last year. Jenna Hostettler was the Player of the Year in 2014.
Joining Patterson on the All-Delco team are Goldberg and teammate Rachel Cain; Morgan Silk, Gina Custer and Paige Monastero from Catholic League and District 12 4A champ Archbishop Carroll; and Cardinal O’Hara’s Breanna Hickey.
Cain, a junior, is the only underclassman. The All-Delco team was selected in consultation with county coaches.
Patterson’s state championship medal has a prominent place in her bedroom, so she sees it every night before she goes to sleep. If she needs another reminder of what the Jaguars accomplished, all she has to do is go to her basement.
Her dad, Steve, set up a shrine to the team’s state championship run.
“It’s nice,” said Patterson, who averaged 10 kills per match and had a hitting percentage of .388.
It was only natural that Patterson became Garnet Valley’s go-to player this season. She was the one who put away the final point in Garnet Valley’s 3-2 victory over Parkland in the state final last year. Yet she never felt the pressure of being the player everyone turned to in critical situations. The fact is, she cherished the roll.
“I always knew when we needed to pick it up,” said Patterson, who will continue her volleyball career at Kutztown.
The other players knew, too, especially Cain, whose job it was to find the hot hitters and usually did. And Patterson was one of her favorite targets.
“We have so many great hitters, but I know I can always count on Erin,” Cain said after the win against Hempfield. “I know that if I get the ball to her, she’s going to make something happen.”
That ability to finish is one of the many skills Patterson has developed since she began playing volleyball at age nine. Yet basketball, not volleyball, was her favorite sport in the early part of her athletic career. That quickly changed, though, as she progressed in the sport.
Patterson realized that her skill level and passion for the game were more suited for volleyball, so she gave up hoops after her freshman season.
“I loved playing year round,” Patterson said.
That meant playing at the club level. She started with Mystique, moved to Synergy and has been with East Coast Power for the last two years.
“Playing year round, with the great coaches here at Garnet Valley and at East Coast Power, has helped me to become a better player,” Patterson said. “I’m a better passer and I’ve learned how to become a better teammate.”
In turn, Patterson passed those traits to her teammates at Garnet Valley, through her actions, of course.
“Erin rose to the occasion,” Clark said. “She would talk to the other kids, tell them what had to be done, and then go out and show them how it’s done. She and Amber were great leaders for us and the reason why we were able to make another great run in the playoffs.”
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