Emily Simanskis, Sports Editor
Erin Rodriguez’s infectious smile will be missed by her peers. Her humor will be missed by her best friend and teammate, Hannah Shteyn. Her quiet strength and determination will be missed by the tennis program. Her kindness will be missed by her family. And her constant positivity will be missed by Miami University.
Erin, a junior, was 20-years-old when she passed away on Jan. 10 in her sleep, without pain. A sudden drop in her potassium levels led to ventricular fibrillation and instant death. She died after a full night spent with friends and family, who are now coping with the loss of a friend, daughter and student-athlete.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Erin’s mom, Judi Rodriguez says. “She was beyond anything a mother could ask for — she was brilliant. She was funny. She was sweet. She was kind. Always made me laugh. I can’t even remember that much she did wrong —she was just an overachiever.”
Erin was majoring in Political Science with a co-Major in Business Legal Studies. She dreamt of being a prosecuting attorney and was a student ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences, a position held by less than 1.5 percent of the student body.
Mark Morris, a political science professor who taught Erin, nominated her for the position. He never saw her without a smile on her face, never received a late assignment and never heard complaints from her peers about working with her. He’d take a whole classroom of students like her.
“I think she really appreciated the fact that tennis was the ticket to play a sport that she loved, but also to get a really good education. I really expected the effort and the energy that she put into being a true student-athlete,” Morris says. “She understood both those roles and did them very well.”
Craig Bennett worked with Erin as an Assistant Athletic Director and Director of Academic services. He saw Erin discover her desire to go to law school, a moment that he describes as special. He remembers Erin as hardworking — as someone who didn’t effortlessly succeed academically, but as someone who worked diligently to get the respectable grades that she had.
“She just brought a unique energy and she would come in and she would light up the room,” Bennett says. “Just a very unique energy of goodness.”
Erin experienced the challenges of being a student-athlete. She balanced workouts, practices, classes and friends. Paul Becker, a business legal studies professor who taught Erin, noted how she usually came to class a few minutes late because she was coming from the other side of campus. He noticed that she was always out of breath because she was hurrying to get there, but she was always prepared and she always participated.
“I’m not just making this up. I have a lot of wonderful students. She’s not the only wonderful student I’ve ever had,” Becker says. “But she was just a great, great person. She was just a really good, sincere person.”
Erin played tennis since she was 11 and captained the RedHawks this year. She threw herself into the sport when she started her freshman year of high school. Her passion led her to convince her parents and younger brother Matthew to relocate from New York to Florida.
Ricardo Rosas, Miami’s associate head coach, recruited Erin during her time as a junior player.
“We were drawn to her determination and her ability to fight, and her ability to compete,” says Rosas.
Erin loved CrossFit, was a quick learner on the tennis courts and was mentally tough, according to her coaches. She also had an ability to make other people laugh, either inadvertently (when forgetting to bring her tennis racquets to practice) or intentionally (when singing “Can’t Stop Dancing” to her 10-person team on a bus on the way back from a match in Buffalo, NY).
Erin laughed the most with Hannah. They communicated in a language laced with a different accent each week. Some accents would mimic their coaches but Hannah’s favorite was one that sounded like Gru from “Despicable Me.”
“As a teammate, she was always steady. She was always there, you know?” Shteyn says. “She was my rock on the team. She was always so kind to everyone, so I’ll miss that. And as a friend — I don’t think anyone understood my humor as well as she did.”
Erin was kind and never judgmental, wanting to individually help everyone she could. She loved Lululemon. She wore sweatpants and sweatshirts like any other college kid, but she stood out to her coaches as someone who emanated quiet strength.
“We’re going to miss her a lot. She’s the person that the team relied on emotionally, whenever we went through the hard moments and she was there for everyone,” says head coach of Miami tennis, Yana Carollo. “It’s not the same anymore, and it’s affecting the team and we’re just going to miss her dearly and her attitude — her strength that she always showed up with.”
When Erin wasn’t playing tennis or getting a head start on studying for the LSAT, she could be found watching “Modern Family” with her mom during breaks, moming her brother, loving Cristina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy,” or cooking in her apartment.
“She lived life,” Judi Rodriguez says. “She had a lot of fun.”
Jorge and Judi thank those who knew Erin, and those who didn’t, for their overwhelming outpouring of love and support.
A picture Carollo took at Erin’s small memorial service at Miami shows rows of people. People from all over the country attended Erin’s celebration of life. At the tennis team’s match on Saturday, the University of Cincinnati gifted Ricardo with red Underarmour sweatbands that read “Erin Strong” in precise Sharpie letters.
“The story is best told by what others say,” Jorge Rodriguez says.
And others cannot stop saying how much they will miss the always smiling, constantly laughing, fiercely compassionate girl that Erin Rodriguez was.
A scholarship fund has been established at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in Erin’s memory. Contributions can be made out to the Erin Rodriguez Memorial Scholarship, and mailed to Miami University, 725 East Chestnut Street, Oxford, Ohio 45056, or visit www.forloveandhonor.org/givetomu