In a way, Loyola’s Ann Ernst became a volleyball star through engineering. The senior Greyhound chose this particular sport at Whitney Young High School in Chicago because the school had an air-conditioned court.
Sports like soccer and softball, not so much.
The talented Ernst had narrowed him down to softball and volleyball in high school, and air conditioning was a factor in his final decision.
“It’s not a very exciting story, but it is true,” said Loyola’s decorated engineering major with a laugh.
So, somewhere along the line, the engineers who brought freshness to his school had an impact on Ernst’s future.
“Ha, I never thought about it,” she said.
Ernst, who plays with passionate competitiveness, has a passion for competing at Loyola, where she helps transform the volleyball program and also studies mechanical and materials engineering.
“I came to Loyola because of the coaching staff,” she said of her decision to travel across the country to Baltimore. “When I met [head coach] Alija Pittenger, I was immediately impressed with her and she did not let me down during my stay here.
Ernst, once again worthy of a future engineer, sought stability. Pittenger had come to Loyola from Fairfield, and she talked about putting down roots in Baltimore and rebuilding the program like she had done in Fairfield.
“I think the Patriot League is really special,” Ernst said. “It’s very impressive, the emphasis on athletics and academics at the same time. I feel really lucky to go to Loyola where I can have a great degree and a great career in Division I.
The feeling is mutual. Ernst has done nothing but bring honor to Greyhound athletics. Ernst, an outside hitter, and Libero Katie Forsythe were the first Loyola volleyball players to win All-Patriot League honors last year for a program that joined the league in 2013. Ernst had 411 kills kills. in 115 sets, scoring a career-high 3.57, who led the Patriot League. His .192 hitting percentage was also a career high.
Additionally, Ernst was named to the Patriot League varsity squad with a cumulative grade point average of 3.787. In addition to a major in engineering, she is preparing a minor in physical innovation and entrepreneurship. During that time, she took 19 credit hours almost every semester.
“His load in engineering class is just insane, and you’d never know it,” Pittenger said. “She comes to training focused on what she does, 100% dedicated to volleyball. She does a great job of just managing everything she has to do for classes and also when she’s in the field.
But Ernst’s academic performance is no exception in Pittenger’s program. The 15 volleyball players all made the Patriot League’s academic honor roll last year. The Greyhounds’ cumulative GPA of 3.725 was the highest in the entire sports department and earned the team an award from the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
“All of my teammates, everyone is very smart,” Ernst said. “I am truly blessed with the family I have made here. We encourage each other to work harder and we help each other.
Pittenger sees a connection to success on the pitch and in the classroom.
“I think volleyball in general has some very successful players like Ann,” said Pittenger. “The discipline it takes to be a successful student-athlete works on and off the court. If you want to be really good at something, you need that efficiency in your job, that efficiency in the field to keep improving, and that ability to work hard.
Ernst’s volleyball numbers and success in the classroom are remarkable, and Loyola had a plan in place to attract students of this caliber.
“They are working really hard here to make sure that we can pick all the classes we want and not miss a beat in practice,” Ernst said. “They see what classes all the athletes have that are mandatory before we do our training times.”
As part of his recruiting pitch, Pittenger asks potential players to think about how they will fit in and what they expect from the full college experience. Ernst said that once the athletes arrive at Loyola, the academic advisers help them set their schedules, perhaps taking a slightly lighter load in season, although a light load for Ernst isn’t really so. slight. She said she adapted quickly.
“After I did it for a year, I kind of got comfortable [with] what I needed to do to balance it all out. Now it’s almost easy. It was tough, but it was totally worth it. “
Ernst comes from a family of engineers, mostly uncles and a grandfather. Her family strongly recommended the prosecution.
“I’ve always been good at math and I love the problem-solving aspect,” she said. “I hope I can apply this one day and make the world a better place.”
Ernst considers herself a perfectionist and believes that the pursuit of excellence on the pitch has helped her.
“Being an athlete my whole life has taught me some really good time management skills,” Ernst said. “I think the demands of our time are easier for me and for a lot of my teammates. We must succeed. “
Ernst certainly contributes to the success of the Greyhounds. When Pittenger returned to the program in January 2015, the Greyhounds were coming off a season in which they were 2-27 overall and 0-16 in the Patriot League. In 2018, Loyola qualified for the Patriot League playoffs for the first time and posted an overall record of 14-16, including a 9-7 rating in the conference.
Ernst was one of the main reasons. She’s had five games with 20 or more kills and 22 with 10 or more.
Beyond air conditioning, Ernst has always been drawn to the rhythm of volleyball.
“There’s always something going on and it’s a lot of times it’s all about mistakes, as opposed to scoring a run, a touchdown or a basket,” Ernst said. “The rally won’t end until someone does the job. It is a mental barrier that you have to overcome. I like this challenge. It takes a lot of practice to become good at volleyball.
Ernst certainly likes a challenge. It thrives in the environment, possibly because it stays cool.
Photo credit: Brian McWalters
Number 257: September 2019