Derek Jeter won it before. So did Kevin Garnet and Mark Sanchez. And earlier this month, it was time for Tatiana Saunders to shine.
Saunders, a senior at Rye High School, was named the Gatorade New York Girls Soccer Player of the Year February 10. She is the first Rye athlete to earn the prestigious honor, which recognizes athletic excellence and academic achievement, in its 26 years of existence. Saunders is now eligible to win Gatorade’s National award.
“It is a huge honor to be chosen, particularly when there are so many awesome players in the state,” said Saunders. “I am really, really proud, and it’s a great way to end my high school career.”
The senior was thrilled to see her name alongside that of Abby Wambach’s, the legendary U.S. National team member and native New Yorker who previously won the award. Saunders met Wambach at a camp in Virginia and said the soccer star is one of her role models.
Saunders recorded 16 shutouts during the 2010 season, and allowed just .25 goals per game in Rye’s march to the Class A State final. Although the Garnets fell in overtime, Saunders was fortunate to be part of Rye’s 2008 State championship squad. She’s also a starter for England’s Under-19 Women’s National Team, a two-time All-American, and the New York State Class A Player of the Year.
“Winning this has reminded me how much I love and enjoy playing this sport, and why I work hard at it,” said Saunders. “I owe so much to Rich Savage, my parents, the Lady VSOC, and many others at my school who supported me.
“I hope this is an inspiration to the younger kids playing soccer in Rye,” she continued, “and I hope I continue to make the Rye Garnets proud.”
Cornelius Saunders, a 2010 RHS graduate and Tatiana’s older brother, received the first-ever Outstanding Rookie award at the Ivy League Fencing Round Robin championships February 12-13 at Columbia University. The Yale freshman, who has only fenced for five years, went 13-2 in epee and also made All-Ivy First Team. Although Saunders was pleased to be recognized, he was heartbroken his team lost to Harvard in the final match.
“It was a great honor to receive this title, however, as the team performed above and beyond all expectations only to be denied by the narrowest of margins, I cannot help but feel disappointed,” said Saunders. “I wish my teammates could receive similar recognition for their incredible performance, which demonstrated outstanding strength of character.”
Saunders competes next in the NCAA Northeast Regional competition March 13 at Vassar College.
— Jim Byrne and Melanie Cane