ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
They come from different places and for different reasons, but this fall’s Tabor College women’s volleyball team will have a decidedly local look.
Six Hillsboro High School alumna will take the court this fall for second-year coach Amy Ratzlaff-herself an HHS grad from the Class of 1991.
The remarkable thing is that only one of the six-Audrey Loewen-is a returner from last year’s 11-13 team.
This fall, the 6-1 sophomore will be joined by Tesha Ratzlaff Werth, a senior with two years of eligibility left; two sophomore transfers from Friends University, Carmen Hein and Kara Chisholm; and a pair of incoming freshmen, Angela Kroeker and Sara Janzen.
When you consider that former Trojans will comprise about a third of the Bluejays’ roster this fall, you’re talking about a significant development for the program.
“To convince local girls to stay at home is hard because they always think there’s something else out there,” Ratzlaff said about the unusual turn of events. “But to know they’re excited about what’s going on here in town, that’s an enormous step.”
Loewen’s pilgrimage may seem normal on the surface, but her story has an unusual twist to it.
“She really needs to transfer because of her major,” Ratzlaff said, “but I pretty much begged her to stay one more semester.”
Werth, meanwhile, transferred to Tabor in 1998 after a year at Hutchinson Community College. She played volleyball for the Bluejays that fall, but sat out the 1999 season to have a baby.
“She is just an all-around athlete,” Ratzlaff said of Werth. “She can do absolutely whatever I ask her to do. She’s very coachable and she’s probably in the best shape of her life.”
Werth also happens to be the coach’s sister-in-law.
“It brings a different aspect to the team because we’re related,” Ratzlaff admits. “The good thing is, she’ll have to prove herself probably twice as hard as anybody else. The thing is, she can do it.”
Hein, meanwhile, a three-sport star as a senior at HHS, played only basketball while at Friends. She said she felt Tabor would provide her with a better fit, but she didn’t know so many of her former teammates would be joining her on the team.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Hein said of the upcoming season. “It’s always fun when you can play with people you played with in high school.”
Hein plans to play basketball at Tabor, too, but she discovered last fall that she missed playing volleyball.
“I didn’t think I would, but I did,” Hein said.
Chisholm played only softball at Friends, but Ratzlaff expects her to make up for the lost time.
“The thing about Kara is her work ethic,” Ratzlaff said. “Everything that she’s taught or will be taught, she really takes to heart and works hard at it. And she has a super attitude. That kind of thing can rub off very quickly onto other people.”
Ratzlaff’s two freshmen recruits, Kroeker and Janzen, were both first-team all-league performers last fall at HHS. Kroeker also plans to play basketball and participate in track, while Janzen plans to play softball.
“Angela is very dedicated to everything she does,” Ratzlaff said. “Everything she decides to do, she does it well. She’s got a lot of talent that we definitely can tap into.”
Ratzlaff has been impressed with Janzen’s abilities as a hitter during summer volleyball workouts.
“I’m excited to work with her to see if we can get her hitting the way we want her to,” she said. “I think she has an incredible amount of potential to be a very strong hitter.”
Ratzlaff said the value of these former HHS players to her team goes beyond the sum of their physical abilities.
“Maybe I’m a little biased, but I do think Hillsboro girls have been not only well-coached by skills, but they have been taught to be winners,” Ratzlaff said. “On and off the court, they have been taught to win in everything they do. I think (HHS coach) Becky Carlson is a large part of that, and I think our community has expected that of them, too-not in a bad way, but in a positive way.
“You can’t teach somebody at this point how to be confident and be a winner if they have not had that experience in high school,” she added. “All these girls, I don’t have to worry about teaching them what it means to win and what it means to be excellent in what they do.”