CHICAGO (December 16, 2009) — In its 25th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPN RISE, today announced Tessa Smolinski of RHAM High School as its 2009-10 Gatorade Connecticut Volleyball Player of the Year. Smolinski is the first Gatorade Connecticut Volleyball Player of the Year to be chosen from RHAM High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Smolinski as Connecticut’s best high school volleyball player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year award, to be announced in late December, Smolinski joins an elite alumni association of past state volleyball award winners, including USA Volleyball Olympians Kim Glass (2001-02, Horseshoe HS , Penn.), Kim Willoughby (1998-99 & 1999-00, Assumption HS, La.) and Ogonna Nnamani (1999-00, University HS, Ill.).
The 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter recorded 239 kills and 205 digs this past season, leading the Sachems (26-0) to a third consecutive Class M state championship. A 2009 Senior All-Star Volleyball Game selection, Smolinski also tallied 83 service aces during her senior campaign. A returning Class M First Team All-State selection as named by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association, she amassed 13 kills, 12 digs and three service aces in a state final-sweep of Barlow, capturing Class M state championship game Most Valuable Player honors for the second straight season. Smolinski compiled 293 kills, 248 digs and 68 service aces as a junior.
Smolinski has maintained a 4.63 GPA in the classroom and ranks No. 5 in her class. The selection leader as a flutist in her school’s wind ensemble and a participant in the Mathematical Olympiads competition, she has volunteered on behalf of countless community-service initiatives, including the Special Olympics, Unified Sports, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Dig Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Rally and the American Red Cross. Also a panelist at the Connecticut Youth Entrepreneur Seminar and a speaker at the Conference for Teaching Entrepreneurship, she established Pre-wrap.com in order to sell pre-wrap and athletic tape worldwide.
“She is spectacular,” said Laura Arena, head coach of Farmington High, which faced RHAM during the 2009 regular season. “She’s 5-foot-9 and plays as big as 6-foot-2 if not bigger and better. That says a lot. She’s a key reason RHAM became the program it is. Without her, I’m not sure they’re as successful. She’s a well-rounded player. She sees the whole court. I’m impressed with her strategy, finesse and power. She’s a strong server and a crafty defensive player. She’s a leader. And she does it all with so much class.”
Smolinski remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by ESPN RISE and the Gatorade high school sports leadership team, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Smolinski joins recent Gatorade Connecticut Volleyball Players of the Year Erika Videtto (2008-09, Greenwich), Janice Ehorn (2007-08, Amity Regional), and Brittany Dickinson (2006-07, Frank Scott Bunnell) among the state’s list of former award winners.
To celebrate the award’s 25th anniversary, Gatorade wants you to vote for the All-Time Greatest Players of the Year at gatorade.com/POY25. To keep up to date on the latest happenings, become a fan of Gatorade Player of the Year on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of past winners, and the announcement of the Gatorade National Player of the Year, visit playeroftheyear.gatorade.com.