For the more than 30 years, Gatorade has honored the nation’s most elite high school athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character with the Gatorade Player of the Year award. On July 13, the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year from the 2015-16 season will gather in Hollywood, where the 13th annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award will be presented to the best overall male and female athlete.
In the days leading to the presentation, USA TODAY High School Sports will profile each of the 12 candidates — six boys and six girls.
This installment features National Basketball Player of the Year Ella Stevens from Grayson in Loganville, Ga.
Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) senior midfielder Ella Stevens was named the 2015-16 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year. The 5-foot-9 Stevens scored 25 goals and passed for 11 assists this past season, leading the Rams (14-4) to the second round of the Class AAAAAA state tournament. A member of the U.S. Soccer Under-20 Women’s National Team during its successful World Cup qualifying run this past December, Stevens is rated as the No. 11 recruit in the Class of 2016 by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
A two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year, Stevens concluded her prep soccer career with 74 goals and 84 assists.
“For me it was something that I could tangibly win,” said Stevens, 18, a Duke signee. “We won state last year and I was just trying to set the bar a little bit higher. It was definitely a goal for this season.”
That goal became a reality when former Major League Soccer MVP Taylor Twellman surprised her face-to-face with the Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year trophy.
“I’ve never really wanted anything like this,” Stevens said. “I feel a little bit silly because it is an award, and the most important thing for me is playing the game. If I hadn’t won it wouldn’t have been crushing. But I’m very glad that I won.”
MORE: Q&A with Stevens
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 field. Stevens 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.
Stevens has maintained a weighted 3.62 GPA in the classroom. A self-taught guitarist and pianist, she has volunteered locally on behalf of SafeHouse Outreach to benefit the needy. She has also donated her time to her 12Stone Church community as part of multiple service initiatives in addition to coaching and instructing on behalf of the Gwinnett Soccer Association. A member of Greenpeace USA, she has visited an orphanage in Costa Rica with her USYSA Olympic Development squad to deliver supplies to low-income families.