Two Trojans on winning club team

Shannon Heiser (left)?and Alex Ratzlaff of Hillsboro hold the championship trophy after their club volleyball team, Crossfire, won its division of USA Volleyball?s 2014 Girls? Junior National Championships in Minneapolis, Minn., last week. The seven-member club team is in its first year of existence and is coached by Amy Ratzlaff. Two Hillsboro High School athletes are members of a 16-year-old club volleyball team that won its division of USA Volleyball?s 2014 Girls? Junior National Championships last week.

Shannon Heiser and Alex Ratzlaff are two of the seven members of Crossfire, a Hillsboro-based club team coached by Amy Ratzlaff.

The team won the 16 Patriot division of USA Volleyball?s national tournament?held June 30 to July 3 in Minneapolis, Minn.,?with a 10-1 record, having lost its first match but winning the next 10.

Amy Ratzlaff said her team was one of 80-some teams in the Patriot division and faced athletes from across the country. In the final day of the tournament alone, Crossfire defeated teams from Colorado, Missouri and Hawaii, she said.

?It was a really big accomplishment for girls from Kansas because you?ve got all the California clubs there, you?ve got the Arizona clubs there,? she said. ?You can imagine a lot of the big hubs of volleyball are all meeting up at this tournament, so it was surreal, I think, to be able to win on that kind of a level.?

Starting the team

Ratzlaff was the driving force behind starting the club team this past year.

Having driven her daughter, Alex, to Wichita to practice and play club ball the last few years, Ratzlaff said she began considering the possibility of starting a club in Hillsboro for convenience of scheduling and practices.

Ratzlaff then talked with some other parents who liked the idea.

?We started searching for girls, and we watched girls throughout the high school season and just kind of invited a few girls in,? Ratzlaff said. ?It ended up being just a really neat group of girls that came together.?

In addition to the two Hillsboro participants, the Crossfire team consists of 16-year-old girls from McPherson, Buhler, Manhattan and Salina.

?Most club teams have between eight to 10 girls, and we played all season with seven, which means we don?t have any subs because we have a libero,? Ratzlaff said. ?I think that?s remarkable too, that these girls were that committed and just worked that hard.?

One defining quality of Crossfire, which is a branch of the Heartland Juniors club in Wichita, is the ability for members to participate in other sports, Ratzlaff said, adding that most club teams require their athletes to focus on solely one sport.

Crossfire began practice in November?typically twice a week at Tabor College, and sometimes only on weekends to coordinate with the basketball schedule, Ratzlaff said.

?We really had a good time, so I think our time together was productive,? she said. ?The girls really did a good job of battling beyond themselves, just putting everything on the line every time we played, and I really think that made the difference.?

Competition

Over the course of the year, the team played in locations such as Kansas City, Indianapolis and Omaha.

?We played different qualifiers throughout the year,? Ratzlaff said. ?We played some of the bigger tournaments, but played a little bit more limited schedule just because of all the other activities our girls are in.?

USA Volleyball?s national tournament is the culmination of the club volleyball year, Ratzlaff said, and involves 150,000 players ranging in age from 12 to 18 years and competing in various divisions.

This season, Crossfire went 57-8 and finished among the top five in most of the tournaments the team participated in, Ratzlaff said. The team will resume play in November.

Through participating in USA Volleyball, Alex Ratzlaff has been chosen to play on the USA Girls? Youth Continental team in Tulsa later this month, where she will practice with the USA National team?s training team for her age group and participate in an international tournament, Amy Ratzlaff said.

Ratzlaff spoke well of the opportunities provided by participating in club ball.

?People don?t know about the club world, they just know about the high school volleyball world, and the club world is really pretty incredible,? she said. ?It?s just a lot of different opportunities.

?To see Alex and Shan?non doing that together on this club team, it?s really a pretty exciting thing.?

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