PAYSON, Ill. -- The numbers speak of Josie Stanford's excellence as player.
However, Stanford discovered this year she had room for improvement in one area.
Being a better teammate.
Stanford, a 6-foot-1 senior middle hitter, was the top offensive player for the Payson Seymour volleyball team that won the Class 1 state championship this fall. She is The Herald-Whig's Player of the Year for her efforts.
Size and skills put a spotlight on Stanford that she struggled with for most of her athletic career. She rarely showed how she felt.
"I wasn't a bad kid," she said. "I just didn't show I was having fun.
"I've always been in the spotlight. When people say things about me, they don't know what I do or how hard I work. When I don't perform the best I can, I feel like I've let (my teammates) down. It really was wearing me down."
As Payson Seymour won its first eight games in August, Stanford said the pressure kept building -- not only on herself but on the team to win a state title.
A Saturday morning gathering before the finals of the Lady Suns Classic was a turning point.
"I realized we needed to talk, and it was holding me back and holding everyone back," Stanford said. "I hadn't been completely open with everybody. We spent three hours during practice just talking, and it was so emotional. We cried non-stop, but we got so much more comfortable with each other.
"Cassie (Eidson, the Indians' setter) told me something I will never forget. She said she didn't think I appreciated her. I was thinking, 'I am an awful person.' After that, Cassie and I connected on a different level.
"Some of the girls, I didn't know how they felt. It was good that we talked."
Indians coach Teresa Loos-Tedrow first coached a stone-faced Stanford as a 5-year-old in softball.
"I remember talking with Niki, her mom, and saying, 'I don't know what to do with this face,'" Loos-Tedrow said. "You didn't know if she was happy or sad or angry or mad."
"I was hard to coach," Stanford said with a laugh.
Loos-Tedrow said assistant Courtney Kvitle, a former standout at Wisconsin, gave Stanford someone to talk with. Stanford learned to trust her teammates and be willing to show her emotion on the court.
"A lot of people mistook Josie's competitiveness," Loos-Tedrow said. "She didn't know how to handle that pressure until this year. It was so exciting to see photos of her during games. I would pick up the paper and say, 'Look at that smile!'"
When Stanford had just four kills in a semifinal victory over Newark, she turned to her teammates during the postgame press conference and said with a grin, "Thanks for picking me up."
She heads to Arkansas State next fall feeling as good about her game and herself as she ever has.
"It might have been maturity. It might have been being open about my feelings," Stanford said. "But this season made me such a better person."
JOSIE STANFORD: BY THE NUMBERS
13: Number of kills Stanford had in Class 1 state championship game victory over Stewardson-Strasburg/Windsor
409: Number of kills Stanford had in 42 games
1,458: Number of career kills for Stanford, which would rank her 17th in IHSA history
5: Ranking in state for number of kills in Class 1A
68: Number of service aces Stanford had, leading the team in that category
3: Number of sets out 85 played that Payson Seymour lost this season
47: Number of sets that Payson Seymour held opponents to 15 points or fewer
9: Number of postseason sets (out of 14) that Payson Seymour held opponents to 15 points or fewer
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2017--Josie Stanford, Payson Seymour
2016--Kolby McClelland, Southeastern
2015--Riley Hummert, QND
2014--Madelyn Hyer, Liberty
2013--Cassidy Foley, QND
2012--India Green, QHS
2011--Shannon Foley, QND
2010--Brittany Houghton, QHS
2009--Hannah Kvitle, QHS
2008--Hannah Kvitle, QHS
2007--Ali Schwagmeyer, Central
2006--Emily Kvitle, QHS
2005--Emily Kvitle, QHS
2004--Sara Liesen, QND
2003--Amber Simpson, QHS
2002--Dinita Bockhold, Central
2001--Michaela Fray, Southeastern
2000--Michaela Fray, Southeastern
1999--Beth Liesen, QND
1998--Jessica Stuckman, QND
1997--Brenda Ippensen, QHS
1996--Brenda Ippensen, QHS
1995--Dawn Elston, Unity
1994--Angie Rosenkotter, QHS
1993--Krista Ridder, QND
1992--Krista Ridder, QND
1991--Shannon Law, Central
1990--Shannon Law, Central
1989--Jennifer Drew, Payson Seymour
1988--Toni Miller, Payson Seymour