Chicago Red Stars' Mallory Pugh Surprises Winner with Honor
In its 37th year of honoring the nation's most elite high school athletes, Gatorade today announced Riley Jackson of Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in Roswell, Ga. is the 2021-22 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year. Jackson won the prestigious award for her accomplishments on and off the field, joining an impressive group of former Gatorade National Girls Soccer Players of the Year who have combined for 17 gold medals and nine National Championships
Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Pugh virtually surprised Jackson with the news, while her family, coaches and teammates showed up with the trophy at school. Check out a video of the announcement here.
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 Jackson as the nation's best high school girls soccer player. The Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which leverages experts including coaches, scouts, media and others to evaluate candidates, selected Jackson from nearly half a million other student-athletes who play girls soccer nationwide.
Competition for the national award was fierce. Jackson topped the list of state winners in girls soccer who collectively boast an incredible list of accomplishments, including 22 First Team All-State selections, 7 returning state Gatorade Players of the Year and 38 who are committed to play at Division I colleges/universities.
"Riley Jackson is that rare player who can influence the outcome of the game without showing up on the scoresheet," said J.R. Eskilson, a national soccer analyst for Prepsoccer.com. "She's one of the best passers in high school soccer, identifying through-ball channels that few players can envision, and she has the skill to put those passes into tight windows. She also has the elegance on the ball to make everything look effortless, but there is so much sophistication in how she approaches the game. That's what really makes her great. What's more, she's a wall defensively, and dictates where the game is played on the pitch with her challenges and instincts for stepping in front of passes. Jackson had one of the best seasons in high school soccer history by making her teammates better, and that's part of what makes her worthy of being the Gatorade National Player of the Year."
The 5-foot-8 sophomore midfielder scored 14 goals and passed for 18 assists this past season, leading the Titans (19-2-1) to the Class AAAAA state semifinals. Jackson missed the high school postseason while she was leading the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Women's National Team to the championship at the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament. Jackson was the Golden Ball winner, awarded to the tournament's best player. Also the Class AAAAA State Player of the Year, she concluded her sophomore year with 36 goals and 48 assists in her prep soccer career.
Jackson has volunteered locally as a youth soccer instructor and camp coach and she's also a USSF certified, paid soccer referee.
Jackson has maintained a weighted 4.26 GPA in the classroom. She will begin her junior year of high school this fall.
"Riley Jackson is now a part of an elite alumni group of past Gatorade Players of the Year, including athletic icons such as Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach," said Gatorade Senior Vice President and General Manager Brett O'Brien. "She has proven why her name belongs on the trophy and we have no doubt Riley will go on to accomplish great things in and out of sport like so many POY winners before her."
Each year, a selection committee evaluates the nation's top talent to choose one state winner from each of the 50 states as well as Washington D.C., in 12 different sports: football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track & field. In all, 608 athletes are honored each year. From the pool of state winners, one national winner is selected in each of the 12 sports.
Gatorade has a long-standing history of serving athlete communities and understands how sports instill valuable lifelong skills on and off the field. Since the program's inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year award recipients have won hundreds of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators. Previous winners include a distinguished list of athletes, such as Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Jayson Tatum, Elena Delle Donne and many other sports icons.
To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit playeroftheyear.gatorade.com or follow us on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/GatoradePOY, Instagram at instagram.com/Gatorade and Twitter at twitter.com/Gatorade.
PREVIOUS GATORADE NATIONAL GIRLS SOCCER PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNERS YEAR NAME HOMETOWN STATUS 2020-21 Alyssa Thompson Studio City, CA High School Junior 2019-20 Emily Mason Flemington, NJ Rutgers University 2018-19 Sophie Jones Atherton, CA Duke University 2017-18 Isabella D'Aquila San Juan Capistrano, CA Santa Clara University 2016-17 Kennedy Wesley Cerritos, CA Stanford University 2015-16 Ella Stevens Loganville, GA Chicago Red Stars 2014-15 Mallory Pugh Highlands Ranch, CO US Women's National Soccer Team 2013-14 Katie Cousins Forest, VA Played for University of Tennessee 2012-13 Morgan Andrews Milford, NH Played for Washington Spirit 2011-12 Morgan Andrews Milford, NH Played for Washington Spirit 2010-11 Morgan Brian St. Simons Island, GA Chicago Red Stars 2009-10 Mollie Pathman Durham, NC Retired from Boston Breakers 2008-09 Rachel Quon Lake Forest, IL Retired from Chicago Red Stars 2007-08 Teresa Noyola Palo Alto, CA Retired from Houston Dash 2006-07 Melissa Henderson Garland, TX Retired from Houston Dash 2005-06 Lauren Cheney Indianapolis, IN Retired from US Women's National Soccer Team 2004-05 Amy Rodriguez Rancho Santa Margarita, CA North Carolina Courage 2003-04 Ashlyn Harris Satellite Beach, FL Orlando Pride 2002-03 Heather O'Reilly East Brunswick, NJ Retired from US Women's National Soccer Team 2001-02 Jill Oakes West Hills, CA Retired from Chicago Red Stars 2000-01 Mary McDowell Lakewood, CO Played for the University of North Carolina 1999-00 Aleisha Cramer Lakewood, CO Retired from US Women's National Soccer Team 1998-99 Christie Welsh Massapequa, NY Retired from US Women's National Soccer Team 1997-98 Aly Wagner San Jose, CA Retired from US Women's National Soccer Team
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