OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Senior Erika Ward of Bryant University’s volleyball program was one of thirty NCAA® women volleyball students selected Monday as a candidate for the 2020-21 Senior CLASS Award® for excellence both on and off the pitch.
To qualify for the award, a student-athlete must be rated as a senior in NCAA Division I and have demonstrated remarkable performance in four areas: community, classroom, character, and competition.
The Senior CLASS Award is an abbreviation for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School® and focuses on the entire athlete. He encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The 30 candidates will be narrowed down to 10 finalists later this month, and those 10 names will be included in the official vote. The ballots are distributed to the media, coaches and fans through a nationwide voting system, who select a candidate who best represents excellence in the four categories of community, classroom, character and competition.
The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2020-21 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship in April.
For more information on all candidates, visit seniorCLASSaward.com.
Ward recently released a perfect 4.0 GPA last fall semester and was a member of Bryant’s Dean’s List from 2017 to 2019. In 2020 it received the “President’s List” award.
She will also conduct a focused study with Bryant’s director of global supply chain management on humanitarian supply chains. The two will write and potentially publish an article about Edesia, a nonprofit that makes special ready-to-eat foods that save the lives of malnourished children around the world. The article tells the story of the company’s mission to feed as many children as possible.
Ward’s love for supply chain management is that she can use her skills to give back and serve a greater cause. This is evident in their diverse efforts to give back to both the local and global communities.
Outside of academia, Ward was hired to lead the team as captain during these unprecedented times. She hosts bi-weekly Zoom meetings to keep the team connected and is known for being over-informed about ever-changing training plans, team bonding sessions, and keeping the team safe and following protocol guidelines. During the long winter break, Ward also led a team initiative to send handwritten letters to each other to keep in touch. She even worked with strength coaches to create a nutrition and lifestyle manual for her team.
Ward stands at just 5’1 and is described as “hard as nails” by her head coach Theresa Garlacy. She is someone who cares a lot about her and goes out of her way to inspire others to seek out a belief system or things outside of volleyball.
Ward was a founding member of the Catholic Student Association (CSA) on campus, where she served on the board. Working with CSA, Ward led the volleyball team to raise over $ 500 for supplies to fill backpacks that were donated to the less fortunate through the Rhode Island Dream Center. CSA helped Ward connect with the Rhode Island Dream Center, where she works with the organization’s manager to help with any volunteer opportunities.
She also volunteers at Special Olympics and even trains her own team of athletes. During her time as a coach, Ward worked closely with a deaf athlete and used a special microphone to communicate and better train volleyball skills. She not only trains and prepares her team for their tournaments, but also volunteers as a referee.
Most recently, Ward worked with leadership professor James Segovis to improve the team’s leadership skills. The duo hosted workshops for the team through bi-weekly Zoom meetings.
Erika Ward was the fastest player in Bryant’s history to hit 1,000 digs in her sophomore year. She received the award for second All-NEC team during the campaign and led the Bulldogs to their very first NEC championship.
She also holds Bryant’s Division I record for career dig of 1,412.
2020-21 Senior CLASS Award volleyball candidates:
Whitney Brown, Robert Morris University Alli Lowe, Colgate University
Camille Conner, Texas A&M University Elizaveta Lukianova, University of Miami
Gabby curry, University of Kentucky Mac May, University of California, LA
Ciara Debell, Marshall University Meghan McClure, Stanford University
Kylie Deberg, University of Missouri Chinaza Ndee, University of Pittsburgh
Nadia Dieudonne, Western Kentucky University Caitlyn Newton, Purdue University
Dani Drews, University of Utah Regan Pittman, University of Minnesota
Melissa Evans, North Carolina State University Yossiana Pressley, Baylor University
Thana Fayad, University of San Diego Stephanie Samedy, University of Minnesota
Emma Granger, Robert Morris University Lauren Sanders, University of Washington
Paige Hammons, University of Florida Isabella Seman, Elon University
Stef Jankiewicz, Illinois State University Avery Skinner, University of Kentucky
Kenzie Koerber, University of Utah Jamie Smith, Iona College
Nicole Lennon, Rice University Erika Ward, Bryant University
Madison Lilley, University of Kentucky Anne-Marie Watson, University of Central Florida