Athlete of The Year: Patti Cesarini


Patti Cesarini jumping to hit the volleyball during a game (edits made by Liz Gremer).

Maggie Kahn, Tommy Layden

For Patti Cesarini ‘20, volleyball is more than a sport, she said. It’s a second home with another family and different memories. It’s a place away from her normal everyday life. No matter what happened earlier in the day, going to practice allows her to forget about it and focus on what’s going on here and now.

Cesarini, an outside hitter, has been competing since she was in sixth grade for one of the most elite volleyball programs in the nation, 1st Alliance.

“She is truly dedicated to making the game better,” 1st Alliance coach Matt Madia said. “She comes early for extra reps, she puts the team on her back when times are tough to make the big plays and shows the meaning of sportsmanship to all.”

She will continue her volleyball career at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, on a full-ride scholarship.

After playing at the varsity level at LT all four years, Cesarini has cultivated many meaningful relationships with all of her teammates, they said.

“[Cesarini] always works very hard and encourages others to do the same,” former teammate Adriana Vassek ‘22 said. “She’s passionate about the sport and about the people around her.”

Cesarini has all the physical tools to have a chance at playing at the next level, but it’s her intangibles on the court that make her such an outstanding athlete, her teammates said.

“Patti has many characteristics that make her an amazing athlete, but I think the desire and passion she has for competing is extremely unique,” former teammate Elise Vorpahl ‘20 said. “She is one of the best people to play with because she’ll snap you out of a bad sequence or celebrate something you just achieved.”

During her seven years of competing, Cesarini has had a strong support system to keep her moving forward, she said.

“My mom has always taught me to work hard because someone else is always behind me trying to take my spot,” Cesarini said. “And my dad has always been right by my side whenever I have been upset about not performing well and he would just tell me to pick myself up and go back out there and prove everybody wrong about that last game.”

In addition to having an individual impact, Cesarini finds ways to raise the intensity for the team as a whole, according to players.

“Patti improves her teammates by setting the bar high,” Vassek said.  “She inspires everyone to work hard. Playing the same position, I have always tried to watch her and make improvements based on what she does. By constantly working her butt off and always open to learning new things, she makes everyone around her better.”

After being nominated for LION’s Athlete of The Year alongside five other accomplished LT athletes, her teammates were not surprised she won, they said.

“Patti deserves this title because she dedicates so much to our team and tries to encourage us to be the best we possibly can,” Vorpahl said. “She is such a good role model for the younger girls because she creates a competitive and motivational atmosphere.”

While this is an individual award, Cesarini emphasized that it takes an entire community to shape a great athlete as well as a great person.

“Winning Athlete of the Year has shown me that not just my family and friends believe in me but other people do, too,” Cesarini said. “And it’s not just me who has won the award but my coaches, teammates, and family who have been there with me every step of the way. I have been blessed to have been chosen for this out of a pool full of amazing athletes.”