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. Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.) middle blocker Meghan Haggerty
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: No. 14
Club: Sports Performance
College: University of Wisconsin (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "Haggerty is a big, strong middle blocker with great range. Extremely athletic with a 10-4 approach touch, she’s mobile side to side and puts up a monster block. She has an extremely fast arm, big time power and the ability to hit the most difficult angles. An intense competitor who has worked hard to turn herself into a point scoring machine. Haggerty is a proven winner, great teammate and leader by example."
2. Edwardsville High (Edwardsville, Ill.) outside hitter Samantha Epenesa
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: No. 33
Club: HP St. Louis
College: Purdue University (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "Few players in this class possess as much fire and charisma as Epenesa, who competes hard and has the ability to play all six rotations at a high level. A strong and gifted athlete, Epenesa jumps well and gets off the floor quickly, but most impressive is her ability to use her hitting arm as a bazooka. She is clearly one of the hardest hitters in the land, whether striking from the left or delivering her dangerous jump serve."
3. Lyons Township High (La Grange, Ill.) setter Alexis Viliunas
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: No. 34
Club: 1st Alliance
College: University of Illinois (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "Very skilled, Viliunas could potentially be an attacker at the Division 1 level but setting is going to be her future at Illinois, where she has committed. A complete player with innate leadership skills, Viliunas fits well in both a 6-2 or 5-1 offense. She is extremely versatile and adapts well in any situation. Viliumas has a great set of hands and a tremendous understanding of tempo."
4. Hinsdale Central High (Hinsdale, Ill.) outside hitter Ally Davis
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: No. 52
Club: Sports Performance
College: University of Michigan (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "Davis is an athletic, six-rotation outside hitter with a great deal of high level experience in both club and high school. Her strength is her speed and athletic ability. A high flyer who soars above 10 feet, Davis has successfully transitioned from the middle to the outside and has the potential to be a dominating attacker as well as strong ball control player at the collegiate level."
5. DeKalb High (DeKalb, Ill.) outside hitter Emily Bemis
PrepVolleyball Senior Aces rank: No. 54
Club: Kane County
College: University of Arizona (verbal)
John Tawa, publisher of PrepVolleyball.com: "A standout at the Volleyball Festival, where she led Kane County to the 18s title last July, Bemis is a complete player who will contribute in six rotations at the next level. She can score from any spot in the front row and her back row attack out of the pipe is just as effective."
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.