Commentary

ESPN RISE Athletes of the Week

Updated: October 29, 2009, 9:38 AM ET
By Mark Tennis | ESPNRISE.com

The ESPN RISE National Athletes of the Week are volleyball player Annemarie Hickey of Joliet Catholic Academy (Joliet, Ill.) and soccer player Robert Sandidge of Lee Christian (Sanford, N.C.).

[+] EnlargeAnne Marie Hickey
Ross Dettman for ESPNRISEAnnemarie Hickey will take her skills to the University of Wisconsin next year.

Hickey picked up her second straight MVP honor at last weekend's Autumnfest Tournament in Lombard, Ill. Her team did not win the tourney last year, but this year the Angels left no doubt with a 25-7, 25-18 triumph over Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.). Hickey also dominated in earlier victories against Prairie Ridge (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and Naperville Central (Naperville, Ill.). She had 24 kills and 37 digs in those matches.

Despite being shorter than many opponents, the 5-foot-8 Hickey has been one of the most outstanding players in Illinois the last two seasons. A University of Wisconsin recruit, she led Joliet Catholic to the 2008 Class 3A state title. She rang up 427 kills, 42 aces and 305 digs and led the Angels in numerous statistical categories.

Sandidge is a senior forward who capped regular-season play with three goals in a 5-3 win last week over Friendship Christian (Raleigh, N.C.). It was Sandidge's 12th hat trick of the season and pushed him to a nation-leading 61 goals this year. He also has 31 assists.

Sandidge was a first-team private school all-state pick last year while attending Fayetteville Christian Academy (Fayetteville, N.C.). Sandidge, who also plays club ball for the Fayetteville Force, has offers from three NCAA Division I programs but remains undecided.

This week's ESPN RISE Regional Athletes of the Week for fall sports (not including football):

East Boys
Grant Pollack
Mills Godwin (Richmond, Va.), Cross Country
Fairly new to the cross country scene, Pollack has set school records and continues to improve. He played soccer from the age of 5 until his junior year, then transitioned to cross country. He led his team to a victory at the Fork Union Invitational in September by winning the 3-mile race and breaking the school record. Last weekend, he captured the MileStat.com Invitational and broke the course record by one second with a time of 15:20 in the 5K race.

East Girls
Emily Lipari
Roslyn (Roslyn Heights, N.Y.), Cross Country
Whether by design or coincidence, Lipari manages to stay pretty well off the radar for the early part of the fall each year. But as she did in '08, Lipari chose one of the last major Northeast invites of the year to make her mid-season statement. With an eye-popping 17:10.9 for 5k, the senior crushed the field at the Brown Invitational, beating several top New England and New York runners. It was the second straight victory at the meet for Lipari, but 25 seconds faster than she ran last year.

Southeast Boys
Robert Sandidge
Lee Christian (Sanford, N.C.), Soccer
Also chosen as the ESPN RISE National Athlete of the Week.

Southeast Girls
Britt Claessens
Lake Mary (Lake Mary, Fla.), Volleyball
A senior headed to the University of North Florida, Claessens has ranked as one of the top setters in Florida this season. Last week in a 3-1 victory against Lyman (Longwood, Fla.), Claessens racked up 40 assists and broke the school season record of 683. She has pushed her season total past 700 and helped Lake Mary to a 21-4 record.

Midwest Boys
Morgan Dobbins
Jackson (Jackson, Ohio), Golf
Despite windy and rainy conditions at Northstar Golf Resort in Sunbury, Ohio, Dobbins carded rounds of 72 and 75 last weekend to win the Ohio Division II individual state title. Dobbins, who has competed in national junior tournaments during the summer, won by two shots and became the first individual state golf champion in Jackson's history.

Midwest Girls
Annemarie Hickey
Joliet Catholic Academy (Joliet, Ill.), Volleyball
Also chosen as the ESPN RISE National Athlete of the Week.

Southwest Boys
Caleb Hoover
College Heights Christian (Joplin, Mo.), Cross Country
The junior standout remained undefeated by winning at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival, a race in which he ran 18th a year ago. He finished the 5K Invitational in 15:02 for his eighth meet win in as many tries. He trailed early but took the lead for good with about a mile remaining and held on to win by just more than four seconds over Jake Rainey (Clarksville, Tenn.).

Southeast Girls
Maggie Ruckenbrod
Oakville (St. Louis, Mo.), Softball
She broke the state career hits record last Friday by getting four in a 12-1 win over Hillsboro (Hillsboro, Mo.). She doubled in the sixth inning to tie the record of 181, then doubled in her next at-bat. The previous record was set last year by Nicole Hudson (Webb City, Mo.). Ruckenbrod is the fourth player to break the record in the last decade.

West Boys
Andrew Flora
Broomfield (Broomfield, Colo.), Tennis
Flora led the Sun Devils to a come-from-behind win over Lewis-Palmer (Monument, Colo.) last weekend in the Class 4A state championships. Considered the top player in Class 4A before the state tournament, Flora capped off a 13-0 individual record with a straight-sets win over Aidan Reid, becoming the school's second straight individual state champion and its third in five years. Flora transferred from Mountain Range (Westminster, Colo.) and had to sit out the beginning of the season, but once he was eligible, he stepped in as the No. 1 in place of injured state champion Kelly Donaldson.

West Girls
Annie Sittauer
Everett (Everett, Wash.), Soccer
The senior forward, who has committed to the University of Washington, factored in six of Everett's nine goals in two victories last week. Sittauer had two goals and one assist in a 5-0 victory over Marysville-Pilchuck (Marysville, Wash.) and three goals in a 4-0 victory over Oak Harbor (Gig Harbor, Wash.). In May, Sittauer's club team won the Washington state cup in the under-17 girls group. She scored one of her team's two goals in the title game.

For the fall season, the national athlete of the week honors will be given to those who participate in sports other than football. The ESPN RISE Athlete of the Week panel consists of Garland Cooper (softball), Andrew Drennen (baseball), Ronnie Flores (basketball), Doug Huff (multi-sports), Kristin Olsen (volleyball), Sheldon Shealer (soccer), Mark Tennis (multi-sports) and Steve Underwood (track and cross country).

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