Posted by Ben Rohrbach on ESPN
Backstage at the Gatorade Player of the Year Program, we’re constantly searching for what we call “three-pillar” candidates-those who possess athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character
We strike it rich with those contenders who seem to raise all three pillars a notch. RHAM (Conn.) High senior volleyball standout Tessa Smolinski was one of those candidates.
The 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter recorded 239 kills, 205 digs and 83 service aces this fall, leading Connecticut’s top-ranked team to a perfect 26-0 season and a third straight Class M state championship. Smolinski’s 13 kills, 12 digs and three service aces in a state final sweep of Barlow earned her a second consecutive state championship game MVP honor. Athletic excellence? Jackpot.
“She does everything really well,” said Coventry (Conn.) head coach Matt Hurlock. “She can dictate a match serving, defending and attacking. She has a good jump serve. I saw her in the state final, and she started with three or four aces. She plays back row. When we played them, we ripped some balls, and she got to all of them. She’s real fast. She’s not big, but she hits a good ball at the net. She just doesn’t make mistakes.”
Smolinski’s 4.63 GPA ranks her No. 5 in her graduating class. The section leader as flutist in her school’s wind ensemble, she has also competed in the Mathematical Olympiads. As the founder of Pre-wrap.com-an e-commerce website that sells pre-wrap headbands and athletic tape worldwide-Smolinski has served as a panelist at the Connecticut Youth Entrepreneur Seminar and as a speaker at the Conference for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Academic achievement? Jackpot.
With the proceeds from Pre-wrap.com, she has shipped care packages to U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and sent relief funds to Hurricane Katrina victims. Smolinski has also volunteered on behalf of countless community-service initiatives, including the Special Olympics, Unified Sports, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Dig Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Rally. Exemplary character? Jackpot.
“I am grateful to have Tessa as a member of our student body,” said Scott Leslie, principal of RHAM High. “Tessa’s focus on academics and her success in the classroom, along with her commitment to a variety of extracurricular organizations exemplifies a student who takes full advantage of the high school experience.”
Her three-pillar excellence makes a nice platform for a further prize: 2009-10 Gatorade Connecticut Volleyball Player of the Year.