Cortney VanLiew: The Republic volleyball player of the year

Volleyball has taken Cortney VanLiew all over the United States and Europe, but it was a combination of her entire athletic and academic résumé that led her to New York City last weekend.

The Columbus East senior spent three days in The Big Apple as one of five girls national finalists for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award. She didn’t win, but she was able to meet four other girls and five boys finalists, as well as former winners and current finalists for college football’s Heisman Trophy.

“It was the trip of a lifetime,” VanLiew said. “That was very cool to be in that atmosphere and see, ‘This is how the elite live.'”

VanLiew and her parents, Mike and Janet, and friend Lydia Doughty flew into New York on Dec. 8. That night, they went shopping and saw a Broadway show.

Friday morning, the High School Heisman finalists went to a graffiti artist studio and took a lesson in graffiti. They visited the 9/11 museum that afternoon.

Prior to their ceremony on Friday night, the High School Heisman finalists had a meet and greet with college football’s five Heisman Trophy finalists and spent about 30 minutes asking them questions. Then, Daniel Orcutt of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and Frelicia Tucker of Aiken, South Carolina, were announced as the Wendy’s High School Heisman winners at the ceremony.

Saturday morning, the finalists met for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. before going ice skating at Rockefeller Center. They saw the Rockettes and visited the highest point in New York City. They were able to attend the Heisman ceremony Saturday night when Louisville’s Lamar Jackson took the coveted trophy, an honor bestowed upon the country’s best college football player.

ESPN2 broadcast a High School Heisman program on Sunday night. The half-hour show featured 2-minute videos on each of the 10 finalists and the announcement of the winners.

VanLiew was back at swimming practice Monday. She runs track in the spring and is on track to reach her goal of graduating with 12 athletic letters.

But volleyball has been the most proficient sport for VanLiew. She led the Olympians to four sectional and two regional titles, earned a scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University and was named to this year’s Class 4A All-State team.

Now, she has earned her second consecutive The Republic Volleyball Player of the Year honor.

“She was a big-time play producer, and the thing I’m most proud of her is her overall game and how it’s developed,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “She’s not just an offensive threat anymore. She can handle the ball, she can pass, she can serve and I think that’s what is going to make her successful at the next level.”

The 5-foot-11 outside hitter led East with 554 kills and 372 digs this season. She added 21 blocks and 32 aces.

VanLiew, who now is playing for Circle City Volleyball’s top 18-year-old club team, said she primarily worked to get better defensively. Pagnard said she did a lot statistically, but did even more off the court.

“She’s an incredible kid,” Pagnard said. “She’s the one that makes sure everybody is organized and getting people where they need to be. She’ll definitely be missed in that aspect. She’s left a legacy with the younger kids, learning how to be a leader and learning how to be respected and cared about at the same time.”

At a glance

The Republic 2016 All-Area Volleyball team:

Cortney VanLiew, Columbus East: The senior led the Olympians with 554 kills and 372 digs and added 21 blocks and 32 aces.

Bailey Western, Columbus East: The senior led the Olympians with 65 blocks and 42 aces and posted 417 kills and 84 digs.

Kendal Williams, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with 1,190 assists and notched 109 kills, 14 blocks, 192 digs and 29 aces.

Brooke Banister, Columbus East: The senior recorded 262 digs and 29 aces.

Alaysha Pollert, Columbus East: The senior posted 368 digs and 38 aces.

Brea Metz, Hauser: The senior led the Jets with 424 kills and added 32 blocks, 145 digs and 57 aces.

Sydney Schoen, Hauser: The junior led the Jets with 384 digs and 125 aces and notched 281 kills, 41 assists and 23 blocks.

Alana Owen, Hauser: The junior led the Jets with 954 assists and added 55 kills, 28 blocks, 229 digs and 65 aces.

Hannah Weaver, Columbus North: The senior recorded 208 kills, 32 blocks, 220 digs and 37 aces.

Mackenzie Rooks, Columbus North: The senior set a school record with 426 digs and added 36 assists and 16 aces.

Imani Guy, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 254 kills and 112 blocks.

Mara Cox, Edinburgh: The senior led the Lancers with 299 kills and added 24 blocks and 33 aces.

Carissa Kinney, Jennings County: The senior led the Panthers with 531 assists and 36 aces and posted 100 kills and 233 digs.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Madalyn Allen, Shea Keller, Hallee Miller. Columbus Christian: Sabrina Herron, Hannah Lorimor. Columbus East: McKenna Chandler, C.J. Clausen, Allison Mack. Columbus North: Agustina Fainguersch, Maliah Howard-Bass, Mady Johnson. Edinburgh: Bri Howard. Hauser: Tannyr Davis, Sarah Tedder. Jennings County: Emma McPeek. Trinity Lutheran: Courtney Barker, Hailley Peters, Whitney Rogers.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.