Erica Packwood walked into Crown Point’s gym on Monday afternoon, fresh off helping the Bulldogs win a Class 4A regional title over the weekend, and she just couldn’t talk.

Whenever the Bulldogs needed a boost of energy on Saturday, Packwood was there lifting up her teammates. Whether it was during the instant-classic semifinal victory over Munster in five games or if it came during Penn’s comeback attempt in the regional title match, Packwood never stopped encouraging her teammates.

“My vocal cords are so swollen,” Packwood said on Monday. “I was a cheerleader in my younger days, and I’ve always been a bubbly, cherry person. I knew coming into this year that it was my turn to step up. As an upperclassmen, I’m going to be one of the leaders, and energy is a way for me to lead.”

Crown Point coach Alison Duncan looked across the court before the fifth game against Munster and saw a team that appeared loose and energetic. Then she looked at her own team and saw some tense faces. It didn’t take long for Packwood to loosen up her teammates and that electricity carried over into the regional title game.

“I love that,” Duncan said. “You need that kind of leadership in the postseason. Someone that is fired up all the time. Erica couldn’t talk today because her throat hurt so bad. You can tell she is putting everything into this season.”

Packwood’s contributions to the Bulldogs (30-6) aren’t just limited to being the team cheerleader. The junior middle hitter is second on the team with 197 kills and second with 40 solo blocks. She’s added 117 digs and 23 aces and she’s only missed one set all season.

That Packwood has become a key piece of Crown Point’s roster isn’t a surprise, not with all the work that she put in to get to this point. Weight has always been a concern for Packwood and when her sophomore season came to a close, she, along with her father Eric, decided to get serious about getting healthy.

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“When I was 13 or 14, I tried out at High Performance Volleyball USA and all of these other girls were scary skinny,” Packwood said. “I knew that if I wanted to play volleyball in college, which is my goal, I needed to lose some weight. Being big, it’s hard to play volleyball. It’s hard to move, it’s hard to jump.”

Packwood dove headfirst into a family fitness plan with her father and between the end of her sophomore season and beginning of this year, she dropped 40 pounds. Duncan calls Packwood a “great success story” and Packwood credits her coach for the motivation.

“Duncan knew that I was capable of more than what I was giving,” Packwood said. “She saw more potential in me than I saw in myself. My dad and I lost weight together. He lost just as much as I did. It was really easy having someone with me.”

The change on the court was evident overnight. Packwood’s vertical rose five inches and her stamina increased immediately. Off the court, Packwood has become an inspiration to others. Proof that putting in hard work yields great results.

“My cousin told me that I’m her inspiration,” Packwood said. “She said she wants to be just like me and I can’t even explain how good that made me feel. I’m so full of emotions. My mom has told me the same thing.”

The Bulldogs take on Hamilton Southeastern (28-4) on Saturday in the Class 4A semi-state championship. Packwood will be resting her voice until then, but once the match begins, she’ll be right back to inspiring her teammates in whatever way she can.

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