Ally Batenhorst, a 6-foot-4 senior outside hitter from Seven Lakes High School in Katy, Texas, was announced Wednesday as the 2020-2021 Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Batenhorst is the 25th woman to be so honored. In 1995-1996, Kerri Walsh-Jennings was the first to be recognized. Cynthia Barboza won two years in a row, in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.
Batenhorst, who is part of Nebraska’s No. 1-rated recruiting class, led Seven Lakes to the Texas public school, large-class state title last fall, its first in school history. The long-limbed attacker amassed 574 kills, 371 digs, 33 blocks and 32 aces for the 25-1 Spartans, who won state, despite two COVID-19 pauses, one year after finishing 26-18.
“Most of us are seniors and we wanted to finish strong,” Batenhorst said. “We flipped our mindset, knowing that we might not have a full senior season. We wanted to go as hard as we could. Knowing that we were being overlooked just fueled our fire.”
In January, VolleyballMag.com named Lindsay Krause, a 6-4 senior OH from Skutt Catholic in Omaha, Nebraska, its National Volleyball Player of the Year. Krause, another member of the vaunted Cornhusker class, had a senior season, and career, that were similar to Batenhorst’s in many respects.
Both are fantastic student-athletes who represent the sport well. Both were equally deserving. Gatorade made a hard, but good, choice. It could not go wrong either way.
Olympian April Ross surprised Batenhorst virtually with the news via Zoom.
“It was a huge surprise,” Batenhorst admitted. “My family did a good job of keeping the secret from me.”
Ross was the fifth woman to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award in 1999-2000 and currently plays professional beach volleyball with Alix Klineman, who won the award in 2006-2007.
“It keeps me connected to the next generation,” Ross said. “In a small way it allows me to give back and be a part of something special in these girls’ lives.”
Batenhorst, who was named Texas’ 6A POY, Greater Houston POY and was on every All-American team, compares favorably to Klineman, a multi-time All-American indoors at Stanford, coming out of high school. Both are six-rotation attackers whose length create impossible-to-dig attack angles and who pass and defend like much smaller players.
“Being a big, tall, physical outside hitter is a huge advantage,” Ross said. “I’m excited to see what she’s going to do at Nebraska.”