Frankfort native Elya Karsner had a sensational freshman season with the University of Akron volleyball team in 2016.
Karsner, the daughter of Bob and Destiny Karsner, led the Zips with 2.65 kills per set and had seven matches with at least 10 kills, including 21 kills in a match against Kent State.
She was named to the All-MAC freshman team.
Then came her sophomore year.
Suffering from a sports hernia, Karsner tried to play through the injury as a sophomore and ended up having surgery in April 2018.
She was still recovering from surgery when her junior season started in the fall of 2018, and that affected her play.
“I used to say if I ever had an injury where I couldn’t play volleyball, I’d come home and live my life,” Karsner said. “But I stuck with it. I made a commitment to my teammates.”
That decision paid off for Karsner, who wrapped up her senior season this fall. Akron finished the season 17-12, its first winning record during Karsner’s time on the team.
“We all came in with the mindset that we would give it our all,” she said about this past season. “We worked hard on the court and off, and we did a lot of stuff off court together. It helped us stay committed to each other.”
The Zips had a nine-match winning streak and also won the Akron Invitational. They lost in the first round of the MAC Tournament to end their season.
Karsner, a 6-2 left side hitter, led Akron in kills per set at 2.89.
Karsner, who was home schooled, played club volleyball for Lexington United, and she played for the Central Christian Athletic Association Cougars.
She was named an NACA (National Association of Christian Athletes) All-American while being home schooled.
“Playing club is where I got all my exposure,” Karsner said. “I had some great coaches.”
One of those was Chris Beerman with Lexington United, who has coached college volleyball.
Another was her mother, who coached the CCAA Cougars.
Destiny Karsner didn’t play volleyball but began studying the sport once she realized Elya’s interest and potential.
She started the Cougars’ middle school team. The Cougars now have a middle school team and junior varsity and varsity teams at the high school level.
The Cougars’ varsity team, coached by Destiny Karsner, won Division 3 of the NACA volleyball tournament this fall.
“She helped a lot,” Elya said of her mother. “She didn’t play volleyball, but she did a lot of research. I helped her out a lot, too. When I was playing for her I was kind of like an assistant coach.”
Karsner is set to graduate in May with a degree in studio art and a minor in professional photography. She’d like to eventually start a photography business.
Right now she’s adjusting to not playing volleyball.
“It’s pretty sad,” Karsner said. “All I’ve known for the past 11 years is volleyball. I’m going to miss it.”
But she has plenty to look forward to. In addition to graduation, she’s engaged to her high school sweetheart, Daniel Elkin, and the wedding is scheduled for June.
Looking back, Karsner is happy with her decision to attend Akron.
“It seems like all of the schools that recruited me were five hours away,” she said. “I would have loved to stay closer to home, but it was good for me to get out of my comfort zone.
“I’ve opened up a lot and learned a lot about myself, and I’ve made a lot of good friends up in Akron.”