Holy Trinity Catholic High senior Mikaela Foecke lives in an Iowa city so small that the mayor is also the dentist, but her volleyball skills thrust Fort Madison into the national spotlight today when she was named the 2014-15 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. London Olympics silver medalist April Ross marked the occasion by surprising the teen in class with the trophy.
“When April Ross handed me that trophy, I was thinking, ‘Are you sure you have the right person?’” said Foecke, 17, a Nebraska commit. “It’s so overwhelming and so exciting. To even be considered for this honor is a rare opportunity. To win it is unbelievable.”
The 6-foot-3 middle blocker slammed 812 kills and amassed 270 digs, 170 service aces and 95 blocks this past season, leading the Crusaders to a 48-4 record and the school’s first state title in any sport. Foecke (Feck-ee) anchored the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team that won gold at last summer’s NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship. She concluded her prep career with a state-record 2,813 kills.
“It’s such a big moment at this stage of a kid’s career,” said Ross, 32, USA Volleyball’s 2014 Beach Player of the Year, who earned Gatorade’s national award as a high school senior in 1999-00. “Winning this signifies so much. She’s being tapped as the next big thing and that’s so validating to a young player’s confidence. It was for me.”
Foecke, 17, has maintained a 3.9 GPA in the classroom. A four-year member of the student council and an officer in her Lee County 4-H chapter, she has volunteered on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the Tri-State Rodeo. Also an altar-server at St. James Catholic Church and an Iowa State Fair Merit of Excellence award-winner, Foecke has donated her time to multiple community-service initiatives, including Lee County Fair Kids Day, Kids Against Hunger, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the West Point citywide cleanup.
“In a state currently top heavy with elite volleyball talent, Foecke has been without peer for at least the past two years,” said John Tawa, Publisher of PrepVolleyball.com. “Though she plays ‘small-school ball,’ she’s a big-time performer, possessing the arm swing and power to dominate anywhere along the net, as well as the agility of a libero in a 6-3 body. Foecke can score against anyone at any time and could be a [collegiate] All-America performer early.”
At the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Thailand, Foecke ripped 84 kills and compiled a .449 hitting percentage in eight matches, leading Team USA to the silver medal—the first world championship hardware ever won by a U.S. volleyball team of either gender at the youth or junior level. A two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year and a First-Team American Family Insurance ALL-USA High School Volleyball honoree, Foecke set a state-tournament record for kills in a match this fall with 37.
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court. Foecke is now a finalist for the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award. USA TODAY High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.
Foecke becomes the first prep athlete from Iowa to win national Gatorade honors in any sport throughout the award’s 30-year history. Other distinguished Gatorade alumni to win State Player of the Year in Iowa include summer and winter Olympian Lolo Jones (Roosevelt, Des Moines), who won the girls track and field award in 1998, Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (Ames, Ames), a two-time winner in basketball (2008-10) and current UConn senior Kiah Stokes (Linn-Mar, Marion), also a two-time winner in basketball (2009-11).
California—with 62— has produced the most Gatorade national winners across the program’s 12 sports, followed by Texas (29), Florida (20), Illinois (15), Indiana (12) and Virginia (11).