In fifth grade, figure skater Emily-Claire Stanzel became volleyball player E.C. Stanzel. The sport, and the name, have stuck ever since.
She preferred volleyball because it satisfied her desire for team competition. As for the shortened moniker? Well, it’s difficult for a coach to yell out a lengthy name between points in such a fast-paced game. So, E.C. it was.
Last season, Stanzel emerged as a leader during her junior season at Highland Park, a fact that became plainly evident when her 2016 season — and that of her team — was cut short.
With four matches remaining in the regular season, as the Lady Scots were in the driver’s seat for a District 15-5A title, Stanzel broke her finger during a freak accident following a team dinner.
HP subsequently dropped a critical match with Lovejoy, as well as another one against Forney less than two weeks later. The Lady Scots were shuffled around in terms of playoff seeding, and suffered an uncharacteristically early exit from postseason play during a second-round loss to Prosper.
“She’s like a main cog in the wheel,” said HP head coach Michael Dearman. “We had balance offensively and were difficult to stop. There was no plugging someone into her spot. We had no one who could replicate what she did. All of a sudden, we became one-dimensional.”
As she recovered from surgery, the left-handed Stanzel wasn’t able to assume her usual post as the go-to right-side hitter for the Lady Scots.
“It was really difficult,” she said. “Once I came back and got to be with the team, I was able to fill a different role. My main focus was getting everybody hyped up.”
Stanzel hopes that time as a vocal leader on the bench will carry over to the court this season, where she expects to be a key contributor on an otherwise young roster during HP’s chase for a district crown.
“Last year didn’t end the way we wanted, but that gives us extra incentive,” said Stanzel, who will play college volleyball next year at UT-Dallas.
Dearman said that following a strong offseason playing club volleyball, Stanzel has again become a versatile force for HP, both at the net and from the back line.
“She’s continued to fire away,” Dearman said. “In big situations, we find a way to get her the ball.”