Shakopee (Shakopee, Minn.) senior left outside hitter Ashley Wittman admits she felt her heart skip a beat Monday when the school security officer ducked into her economics classroom to let her know her car had been hit in the parking lot. But when two-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor burst into the room to expose the story as a hoax, Wittman's day got a lot better. May-Treanor was there to deliver a trophy and some pretty life-changing news: The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPN RISE, had announced Wittman as the 2009-10 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.
"I'm kind of a trickster and I love surprising people, so I love the way we did that," said May-Treanor, a three-time FIVB world champion and former NCAA Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year. "She's a great kid, and if I could play a role in making her happy, I'm thrilled to do that."
"I'm still adjusting to all this," said Wittman, who was officially honored inside a gymnasium housing more than 1,000 of her schoolmates just minutes after May-Treanor's stunt. "This is amazing. I can't believe all of this is taking place for me. It's very humbling."
Wittman is the first volleyball athlete from Minnesota to be so honored in the 25-year history of the Gatorade awards program, which recognizes not only outstanding prep athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court. She is also the first female athlete from Minnesota to win a Gatorade National Player of the Year award.
The 6-foot-1 Wittman led the Sabers to a 32-0 record and their third consecutive Class 3A state championship this past season. A two-time Gatorade Minnesota Volleyball Player of the Year selection, Wittman compiled 569 kills, 294 digs, 50 blocks and 26 aces in 2009 while posting a kill percentage of .662. In the Class 3A state final, she recorded 34 kills and 19 digs in a three-set sweep of Wayzata. Wittman is also a two-time Minneapolis Star Tribune Player of the Year and a three-time first team All-State honoree.
A two-time Amateur Athletic Union Girls' Junior National Champion at the club level, Wittman led her Northern Lights club team to the USA Volleyball Junior Olympic Championships Open Division national semifinals in three straight years, including a finals appearance in 2009. The 2008 PrepVolleyball.com National Junior of the Year, Wittman served as captain of the gold-medal-winning 2008 U.S. Girls' Youth National Team at the NORCECA Girls' Youth Continental Championship and was a member of the USA Select Red Team that won the gold medal at the 2007 USA Volleyball High Performance Championships in the International Junior Division.
"Wittman is a force in all six rotations," said John Tawa, Publisher of PrepVolleyball.com. "Whether she's passing serve, tracking down a ball in the corner, scoring with her jump float or demoralizing teams with her heavy hitting, she's a complete player. Fierce and driven, the only thing Wittman wants is to be the best, which is exactly what she's accomplished at the junior level."
Wittman is only the third Minnesota native to win Gatorade National Player of the Year recognition since the program launched -- 211 winners and 25 years ago -- joining former Cretin-Derham (St. Paul, Minn.) football players Chris Walsh (1991-92) and Joe Mauer (2000-01). Interestingly, the athletic director at Shakopee, John Janke, was the AD at Cretin-Derham when Walsh and Mauer won the award, making him the only AD to be the administrator for national winners at two schools since the program's inception in 1985.
Wittman has maintained a 3.87 GPA in the classroom. An active parishioner in her church community and a member of the National Honor Society, she has served on the Shakopee High Student Council in addition to coaching, officiating and instructing as a youth volleyball camp, clinic and summer league volunteer. She has also donated her time to the America Reads literacy-outreach program, the Special Olympics and as a fundraiser for Feed My Starving Children international humanitarian efforts.
Wittman has signed a National Letter of Intent to play volleyball on scholarship at the University of Minnesota next fall and will graduate Shakopee early to begin attending spring semester collegiate classes. She concluded her high school career with more than 1,800 kills and over 1,000 digs. Mauer, the 2009 American League MVP as the Minnesota Twins' backstop, continued his relationship with the Gatorade Player of the Year Program earlier this month when he surprised 2009-10 National Football Player of the Year Malcolm Jones of the Oaks Christian School (Westlake Village, Calif.) with the news he had won.
For more information on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of former winners, and future announcement dates, visit click here.