Athlete of the Week: Braves happy to have Zanardo back

As a promising freshman on the Socastee JV basketball team, Kirstin Zanardo was looking forward to playing for the Lady Braves’ varsity squad the next season.

As it turned out, she would have to wait a whole year to get that opportunity. Her family moved away to Wisconsin and later Illinois before returning to the Grand Strand earlier this year.

“It was hard because you have to leave all your friends, and then you get there and everybody already has their friends,” said Zanardo. “I played basktetball while I was in Illinois, but it wasn’t the same. I’m so glad to be back here again. It’s like getting your second family back.”

That extended family returned the love for Zanardo in the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week Award voting. She earned more votes than any other candidate in the history of the contest, garnering almost 30,000 votes.

Obviously the Lady Braves feel fortunate to have the junior swing player back on the team, but as much for her friendship as her contributions on the court.

“Kirstin missed a year and she got a little behind, but she has worked hard to catch up,” Socastee coach Ginger Ford said. “We’re happy to have her back, not just basketball-wise but also as a person. She’s a lot of fun to be around. She’s not a vocal leader but she leads by example.”

Zanardo’s role increased when her good friend and teammate Ellen Rickenbacker went down with a season-ending injury. With Rickenbacker’s perimeter shooting gone, Ford asked Zanardo to play multiple positions to help the team. The outcome has been a balanced effort of 13 points and almost 10 rebounds per game, averaging just shy of a double-double.

“When Ellen went out everyone had to help pick up the slack,” Ford said. “Kirstin has done a great job of scoring and rebounding, whatever role we ask her to fill.”

So far so good for Zanardo, who recently scored a career-high 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a game. She believes the Lady Braves are headed for big things, and she’s happy to be a part of it again.

“We’re a young team but we’ve got some really good juniors,” Zanardo said. “We’re a lot closer as a team than they were last year so I think we’re going to have a strong team over the next two years.”

And this time Zanardo plans to be there for every minute of it.

Photo by Digital Magic Photo

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