In its 28th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, announced Sally Sanders of East High School as its 2012-13 Gatorade Wyoming Volleyball Player of the Year.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Sanders as Wyoming’s best high school volleyball player.

Sanders joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including USA Volleyball players 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 and middle led the Thunderbirds (30-5) to the Class 4A state championship this past season.

A two-time Class 4A First Team All-State selection as named by the Wyoming Coaches Association, Sanders amassed 458 kills, 266 digs, 113 blocks and 45 service aces, compiling a .420 hitting percentage and .510 kill percentage.

Also the Class 4A East Conference Player of the Year, she slammed a match-high 14 kills in a state title sweep of Cheyenne Central.

Sanders has maintained a 3.66 GPA in the classroom and serves as an editor on her school’s yearbook.

In addition to donating her time as a youth volleyball instructor, she has volunteered locally on behalf of Girl Scouts of America, at the state museum and as part of multiple charitable campaigns at Christmas.

“She is an outstanding volleyball player who is hard to defend against,” said Sandy Goheen-Smith, head coach of rival Cheyenne South High. “Even though she is more recognized in the front row as a hitter and blocker, she is also an excellent passer and server. We have competed against her the last two years, and she has always shown great sportsmanship in addition to her talent. She is a leader on the court and—by my observation of her in this role—is very positive. I think she is superb.”

Sanders has signed a National Letter of Intent to play volleyball on scholarship at the University of Wyoming beginning in the fall of 2013.

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 the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, 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.

Sanders joins recent Gatorade Wyoming Volleyball Players of the Year Caitlin McInerney (2011-12, Laramie High School), Meghan Sipe (2010-11, Cheyenne East High School), Paige Hellbaum (2009-10, Wheatland), and Emily Rochelle (2008-09 & 2007-08, Wheatland) among the state’s list of former award winners.