By JACOB MARROCCO Friends, family, teammates and others gathered around the front steps of Cranston High School East on the morning of May 7 to surprise girls volleyball star Lauren Milani, who was named this year's Gatorade Player of the Year. Mayor
Friends, family, teammates and others gathered around the front steps of Cranston High School East on the morning of May 7 to surprise girls volleyball star Lauren Milani, who was named this year’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
Mayor Ken Hopkins and members of the Cranston Public Schools community waited to greet Milani, who was welcomed by raucous cheers as she emerged from the front doors. Principal Sean Kelly said that the Thunderbolts have not had a Gatorade Player of the Year winner in three decades, and Milani is just the third athlete – all of whom have been female – to take home the award.
Milani, 2019’s Rhode Island High School Player of the Year, was named to the Providence Journal All-State squad twice and will head to Central Connecticut State University on a scholarship this fall to play for the Blue Devils.
“Lauren’s going to CCSU where she is going to be playing volleyball for the next four years and hopefully beyond,” Kelly said. “I want to wish congratulations to Lauren for all of her accomplishments here, and the best part of it is, she was also a successful student.”
Hopkins, a Cranston East alumnus himself, presented Milani with a coin from the city of Cranston “in recognition of all your achievements.” He joked that it wasn’t a key to the city.
“I love Cranston East,” Hopkins said to the crowd. “This is my school. Go ‘Bolts. I spent most of my life here and I did jump off these steps the day I retired. Congrats to Lauren, congrats to mom. I don’t think you can be a successful athlete without the support of your family, make sure you did your homework, mom, you’re celebrating this as well. … It’s not a key to the city, that’s when you become an adult, this is a coin to represent the city of Cranston.”
Athletic director Mike Traficante, who took over for Hopkins after his tenure in the post, said “it’s been a pleasure” watching Milani succeed during the past three seasons. He thanked coaches Meaghan McGonagle and Ronald Lee, whom he called “the best coaching staff in the state” and lauded both the girls and boys volleyball programs.
“I know they were bragging about her [4.63] GPA, but I went to Hendricken – sorry about that – I graduated with a 4.7, but that’s when I added my four years together,” Traficante said with a laugh. “It’s a great accomplishment [for Lauren]. Three-time All-Stater, I’m not going to repeat all the accolades. It’s been a pleasure. I took over for Mr. Hopkins … I did not miss one home game.”
He added: “Meaghan and Coach Lee, you guys have done a fantastic job with volleyball here. Think of some of the athletes who have come through this school. We’ve had professional athletes come through here, and this is a huge, huge accomplishment.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, McGonagle, Lee and the rest of the girls volleyball team presented Milani with a signed volleyball and gathered for photos on the front steps.