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Volleyball: Ratzloff experiences success early in career

East Ridge libero Ella Ratzloff poses with AAU National Championship trophy a couple weeks ago. Ratzloff recently wrapped up her AAU season and will now shift her focus to this upcoming season with the Raptors. (Submitted photo)

Raptors libero Ella Ratzloff admitted that even as a 15-year-old life is starting to move pretty fast.

Ratzloff played varsity for East Ridge last season and recently wrapped up her AAU season with Northern Lights — a top-tier club team based out of Burnsville. She won’t have much of a break, though, as she’ll travel to Iowa next week for 10 days of competition as a member of the USA Volleyball Select A1 team — a top-tier training program that essentially serves a pipeline for the Olympics.

“It’s pretty crazy because it feels like it’s only been a few years since I started playing the sport,” she said. “I immediately loved the sport so it’s really cool that I’ve been able to play at such a high level so far.”

Ratzloff was a libero on the Northern Lights 15-2s and helped pace the team to an 81-14 overall record. That team won tournament titles in Chicago, Minneapolis and Omaha over the course of the season, and capped the season by winning the AAU national championship in Orlando a few weeks ago.

“I had a blast with that team,” Ratzloff said. “It was one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of and the fact that we were so close made it even more special.”

“I’ve never experienced a team like this in any aspect,” coach Damien Fox added. “It was cool to take a hodgepodge of kids and piece it together to achieve greatness. I’ll never forget this group.”

Fox also coaches at Faribault High School and has seen his share of talented players over the course of his career. That makes his continuous praise of Ratzloff carry even more weight.

“She has incredible composure on the court,” he said. “She was also willing to do whatever we needed from her. That goes a long way in this sport.”

Ratzloff credited Fox with helping her take her game to another level throughout her time with Northern Lights.

“She can definitely play at the next level,” Fox said. “That said, she knows she still has a long ways to go as far as overall development.

“She has a ton of untapped potential and can pretty much go as far as she wants to go with this sport.”

Though schools can’t officially start recruiting her yet, Ratzloff said she’s received letters of interest.

“I really want to play at the D-1 level,” Ratzloff said. “So it feels pretty good to know schools are already interested.“

In the meantime, though, Ratzloff has shifted her short-term focus to the USA Volleyball Select A1 team.

“It feels pretty cool,” she said. “Not a lot of people get that experience. So I’m grateful.”

Ratzloff will compete with that squad for 10 days before returning to Minnesota. Then her focus will shift again — this time toward the upcoming East Ridge season.

“I’m excited for the season,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the season goes. I feel like I’m going to have to step up. I’m ready for it.”