Emily Tonascia accepts Gavilan College’s 2011-12 Student-Athlete of the Year award Tuesday in Gilroy. In the photo from left to right:  Famous Dave’s Famous Wilbur, Kevin Kramer, Emily Tonascia, Famous Dave’s Oscar Garcia and Ron Hannon.
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Being named Student-Athlete of the Year was never a goal Emily Tonascia outwardly expressed during her two years at Gavilan College. But it certainly was something she wanted. 

On Tuesday, the two-year volleyball player, who graduated at the end of the last school year, was named the college’s 2011-12 Student-Athlete of the Year for her leadership on and off the court. It was a welcomed surprise for Tonascia.

“It was something that I very much wanted, but it wasn’t something that I expected to get,” Tonascia said. “It represents the past two years of games and all of the relationships that I built at Gavilan. It’s a culmination of the all the experiences I had as an athlete and in academics.”

Tonascia is the second volleyball player to win the award in the past three years, according to volleyball head coach Kevin Kramer. The award, which is presented by Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit BBQ and Articulate Solutions, is given out at the end of each school year and recognizes accomplishments in academic achievement, leadership, athletic contributions and involvement in the community.

Tonascia, who graduated from San Benito High in 2010, finished her junior college career as one of the Rams biggest offensive threats – leading the team with 230 kills – and a two-time All-Coast Conference first team recipient. 

In her final year at the college, Tonascia completed a 3.58 grade point average and was named a President’s Scholar in the fall and a Dean’s Scholar in the spring. But it was Tuesday’s award that truly signified her time at Gavilan. 

“Gavilan taught me a lot about myself,” she said. “It made me recognize what I can do with hard work. I didn’t feel ready to leave this area when I graduated from San Benito. That step was too much for me. So when I decided I wanted to play volleyball, I chose to go to Gavilan. And Gavilan was a really great experience.”

At the school, she used her familiarity with Kramer, who coached Tonascia’s club team, to excel. 

“She is one of the best athletes we’ve ever had here at Gavilan,” Kramer said. “She is everything a coach wants. She is an outstanding leader, who works hard. She is someone that we always want here.”

Despite being naturally skilled at the middle blocker position, Tonascia still displayed the team’s best work ethic, Kramer said. She was one of the first people at practice and in the weight room and always the last to leave.

“She was always our hardest worker,” Kramer said. “It was great because the other girls would see that and then try to meet her work ethic.”

At Gavilan, Tonascia wanted to try her best to succeed and a get a scholarship, she said. Awards were never the reason why she practiced so hard. 

“You don’t do what you do for the awards,” she said. “You do it because that’s who you are. That’s what you want to do. And if the awards come that’s really exciting.”

Tonascia called the two years at the school a “blessing” because the opportunities it gave her.

“It’s exactly what I wanted out of my college experience,” she said. 

And she will be missed this year, Kramer said. 

“She led by example,” he said. “The girls looked up to her.”

After the season, Tonascia earned a volleyball scholarship at Menlo College in Atherton where she begins this fall. Classes haven’t stated but Tonascia is already translating her work ethic to her new school and team, she said. 

“We are just getting to know each other,” she said. “We have a good team.”

Tonascia also coached the San Benito High boys varsity volleyball team to a Tri-County Athletic League title in the spring.

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