Rachel Klitzing (middle) and Natalie Ravenell (far right) celebrate with the rest of the team after scoring a point on Sept. 16. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis.
JIMMY LAFAKIS | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The bond Rachel Klitzing and Natalie Ravenell created began on the volleyball court in high school. It continued during their 6 a.m. summer practices, but became strongest after they won a national championship with their club team last summer.
Their Yorktown, Indiana, club team won the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championship in June. Out of 1,000 teams in the nation, the top 48 competed for the championship. The team defeated Mizuno Elite 18 in three sets to earn the trophy in Orlando.
“We went in there with full confidence,” Ravenell said. “Teams around us said, ‘We have to win this game.’ We said, ‘We’re going to win this game.’”
Munciana co-director Mike Lingenfelter coached the players to the title and said they played huge roles on a stellar team.
“Rachel had to be ready on every occasion,” Lingenfelter said. “She was so quick laterally. Natalie was a lockdown defender who evolved into an offensive player. She gave us more than what we could have ever expected.”
Lingenfelter, who only coached the girls for one summer, said he knew he was coaching hard workers with high character.
“I would sell my soul for more years with those kids,” Lingenfelter said. “They are both incredible, intelligent and come from great families. They are just beautiful kids.”
— BIG EAST Conference (@BIGEAST) September 19, 2017
“When we played in big summer games together, we always played our best,” Klitzing said. “College volleyball is definitely more time-consuming and hard on your body. It is so fun because you spend so much time with your team and you all get so close.”
The Bulldogs currently stand at 10-2. Head coach Sharon Clark said the two freshmen stand out in a special group.
“They are both playing phenomenally,” Clark said. “One thing about Natalie is that she comes through at key moments, and that’s not something you can teach. Rachel always stays in it and fights the fight. I’m real proud of both of them.”
Clark may have spotted their talent years ago, but athletic trainer Nic Carothers also knew there were two special players on the Hinkle horizon. Carothers, who works on explosiveness and flexibility drills with players during the summer, said he will always remember the first time he saw Ravenell play.
“When she came into Butler’s Nike camp as a high school sophomore, she started crying,” Carothers said. “I mean, the tears were rolling down her face. She said, ‘I never worked this hard. I don’t want to stop.’ That girl is real, and they are both hungry.”
The players did not know each other when they committed to Butler, but met at that Nike camp as sophomores. Ravenell said playing with Klitzing has made the adjustment to college volleyball simpler.
“It’s easier coming in and knowing there is someone there who will hold you accountable,” Ravenell said. “And it’s someone you can do the same for without there being awkward tension. When we were playing club, we became close because we were practicing with our team more than we spent time with our families.”
The veteran players have started to take notice of the freshmen’s intensity. Junior libero Taylor Takeda said her teammates play at high levels.
“As team captain, I’m trying to lead by example for the little ones,” Takeda said. “It’s fun to play with them because they’re both so passionate and make the game exciting. They make huge plays and get excited about them.”
Klitzing and Ravenell live in ResCo together. Klitzing said she loves playing with her teammate, suitemate and close friend.
“I think going through Munciana together and dealing with the struggles we both had brought us so close,” Klitzing said. “We got to learn each others’ tendencies and personalities before we got to college. I don’t think a lot of people get to do what we do.”
Butler opens Big East play on Sept. 20 against Marquette in Hinkle Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.