Lizzie Patel ‘21 named AAU Academic All-American


Lizzie Patel ‘21 sets up a hitter at a First Alliance volleyball tournament during her club season (photo courtesy of Patel).

Liz Gremer, Co-Art Director

Over the summer, Lizzie Patel ‘21 got a text from her 1st Alliance club coach telling her she had been named an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Academic All-American. Weeks later, Patel gleamed with delight and pride upon finding the certificate in her mailbox.

“I want to do well,” Patel said. “I don’t like it when I’m not successful. I’m always striving to do my best, both in school and in sports.”

This year, AAU hosted its 46th annual Junior National Championship in volleyball from June 16-28. All-American athletes are announced on the last day of game play during the tournament, and awards are given to top athletes in the different brackets. However, academic All-Americans are announced roughly a month after the tournament.

The award is given to athletes who compete in club sports in AAU. While there are no specific qualifications, there is an application that coaches need to submit for the player, Patel said. After applications are submitted, a review board reads over the applications to determine the winners.

“My club coach texted me and told me I got it,” Patel said. “She told me how proud she was of me and how I deserved it.”

Patel’s 16-1’s club coach, Aubrey Sands, nominated Patel for the award. Between balancing school and sports, Patel deserved the award, Sands said.

“[Patel] has done a phenomenal job at balancing her schedule between high school and club volleyball, all while maintaining an exceptionally high GPA,” Sands said in her submission. “After the loss of [Beth Dunlap], Lizzie was always a strong and comforting shoulder for her teammates and others around her.”

“I’m always striving to do my best, both in school and in sports.”

– Lizzie Patel

Teammates have also noticed Patel’s charisma and leadership, Mary Murray ‘21 said. In addition to being captain of her club team, Patel was also voted MVP for the LT sophomore team last year.

“[Patel] is a leader both on and off the court,” Murray said. “She not only has huge intelligence of the game, but is also the first person to notice and help a teammate when problems come up.”

Patel played for 1st Alliance 16-1’s this past year, in addition to playing for the school volleyball team, club and school soccer. Despite playing two, full-time sports, Patel managed to show up to tournaments and practices without overwhelming conflict.

“I’ve had at great experience at 1st Alliance and have always felt supported,” Patel said.

As well as club volleyball, Patel is a member of the LT girls’ volleyball team. Furthermore, she balances her school and club soccer teams, volunteering at the LaGrange hospital, and being the founder of the Social Action Project. Additionally, she is a member of the LION Newspaper.

“I don’t think any kids our age who works harder than [Patel] does,” Murray said. “She is the most deserving of this award, and I couldn’t be happier that she is being noticed for all the hard work she puts in.”

Since the award takes both athleticism and academics into consideration, the criteria is difficult to meet, Patel said

“I think it is very rare to find student athletes with all these characteristics without coming across as sucking up to a coach or causing tension among her teammates,” Sands said. “Everyone of her teammates wanted her to excel and followed her lead.”