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 PrepVolleyball.com's Senior Aces rankings.
That being said, the state’s top five recruits as ranked by PrepVolleyball.com are sure to enter the 2011-12 Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year conversation at some point. Here they are …
1. Wilson High (Long Beach, Calif.) setter Rebecca Strehlow
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: 8
Club: Sports Shack
College: UCLA (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "Strehlow has all the things you look for in the modern setter. She has good size, is a great athlete, can locate, makes great decisions, can set any tempo, can serve and is the best blocking setter in this class by far."
2. Mountain View High (Calif.) outside hitter Brittany Howard
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: 12
College: Stanford University (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "Howard has all of the tools that go into making a great volleyball player: height and athleticism, years of experience and a pronounced competitive streak. Her height and arm swing allow her to hit shots that are just impossible for most players, both over blocks and at extreme angles from either side of the court."
3. Palo Alto High (Calif.) right-side hitter/middle blocker Melanie Wade
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: 17
Club: City Beach
College: University of Washington (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "A dominating force at the net, both on offense and defense, Wade has the capability to completely alter an opponent's game plans because of her presence. Her block is scary good and over the years she's grown stronger and more versatile with her attack, and is now a threat from several points across the net."
4. Frontier High (Bakersfield, Calif.) outside hitter Kelsey Fien
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: 19
Club: Bakersfield VBC
College: University of Nebraska (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "Blessed with a natural cannon, Fien brings the heat when she attacks. She is tall, quick, a good jumper and hits the ball at a high contact point, so you can only imagine the fear she instills in defenders on the opposite side of the net when she rises to pound the pill."
5. Newport Harbor High (Newport Beach, Calif.) setter Cinnamon Sary
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: 24
Club: Orange County
College: University of Southern California (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "As accomplished on sand as she is indoors, Sary loves to compete no matter the surface. As a setter in the six-man game, she has the ability to consistently get her hitters matched up 1-on-1 with blockers."
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.