National POY Watch: Volleyball contenders

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
8:46
AM ET
Everybody knows a girl’s gotta win her own state first before she gets a shot at being Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. That said, two elite performers to this point in the season are among those making a bid to be honored as the best of the best once mid-December rolls around. The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court. There’s plenty more work to be done, but here are two top candidates who remain in contention to win their own state and could someday call themselves a National POY.

National POY Watch: Jordan Burgess
Paul Warner/ESPNHSJordan Burgess is the returning Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year.
Jordan Burgess
Senior outside hitter, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)

2011 Team record: 30-2 (Class 4A)
2011 Team standing: Class 4A state champions; No. 5 on ESPNHS FAB 50

2011 Kills: 553
2011 Digs: 366
2011 Aces: 48
2011 Assists: 38
2011 Blocks: 32

Academics: A average
Collegiate destination: Stanford University

How she’s played herself into the National POY conversation: Recorded 15 kills, 13 digs and four blocks in the 3-1 Class 4A state championship victory against Bishop Moore (Orlando, Fla.). Produced a .526 kill percentage and .457 hitting percentage. Averaged 5.9 kills and 3.9 digs per set. 2010-11 Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year. No. 3 ranked recruit in Class of 2012 as rated by PrepVolleyball.com. 2011 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team member. 2011 Under Armour First Team All-America selection. 2010 ESPNHS National Junior of the Year. 2009 and 2010 Class 3A state champion.

National POY Watch: Nicole Dalton
PrepVolleyball.comNicole Dalton is the returning Gatorade Colorado Volleyball Player of the Year.
Nicole Dalton
Senior outside hitter/setter, Chaparral (Parker, Colo.)

2011 Team record: 31-0 (Class 5A)
2011 Team standing: Class 5A state champions; No. 8 on ESPNHS FAB 50

2011 Kills: 492
2011 Assists: 406
2011 Digs: 267
2011 Blocks: 62
2011 Aces: 54

Academics: B-plus average
Collegiate destination: University of Texas

How she’s played herself into the National POY conversation: Amassed 22 assists, 13 kills, 13 digs and three blocks in a Class 5A state championship sweep of Grandview (Aurora, Colo.). Averaged 5.0 kills, 4.1 assists and 2.7 digs per set. Recorded a .454 hitting percentage and .564 kill percentage. 2010-11 Gatorade Colorado Volleyball Player of the Year. No. 6 ranked recruit in Class of 2012 as rated by PrepVolleyball.com. 2011 Under Armour First Team All-America selection. 2011 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team member. 2010 Class 5A state champion. 2009 USA Volleyball Junior Olympic Championships All-Tournament Team selection.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Volleyball Player of the Year races aren’t over yet, and the National POY race has just begun. Here are some other state contenders who’ve also entered the National POY conversation in this 2011 campaign.

Inky Ajanaku: Bishop Kelley (Tulsa, Okla.) senior middle blocker
Megan Courtney: Archbishop Alter (Kettering, Ohio) senior outside hitter
MacKenzie Dagostino: Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) senior setter/right-side hitter
Alyssa Goehner: Lakeville North (Lakeville, Minn.) sophomore outside hitter
Molly McCage: Klein Collins (Spring, Texas) senior middle blocker
Amy Neal: Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) senior outside hitter
Caitlin Nolan: Southlake Carroll (Southlake, Texas) senior libero
Kadie Rolfzen: Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.) junior outside hitter
Emily Sklar: Presentation (San Jose, Calif.) senior outside hitter
Rebecca Strehlow: Woodrow Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.) senior setter

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State or National Player of the Year candidate? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com or Twitter @ESPNHS_Awards.

A dedicated POY team at ESPNHS manages the Gatorade Player of the Year program selection process and oversees all research, reporting, comparative analysis and criteria-compliance on the award program’s behalf.

The Gatorade Player of the Year Program honors athletes who meet comprehensive and exacting criteria in high school sports. Candidates are judged on athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders also must demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNHS recruit rankings.

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