Video: Illinois volleyball star Dana RettkeRiverside-Brookfield senior headed to the University of Wisconsin next year.
In a sport like volleyball, being tall has its obvious advantages.
But when you're really
tall like 6-foot-8 Riverside-Brookfield (Riverside, Ill.)
senior Dana Rettke
, there can be disadvantages.
Such as being slow-moving, non-athletic and lacking ball skills.
managing editor John Tawa, Rettke doesn't lack any of the above. That makes the nation's tallest player quite possibly the one with the highest ceiling.
No pun intended.
Tawa ranked the Wisconsin commit as the No. 8 senior in the country. She was a MaxPreps preseason All-American.
"She is someone hard to overlook," Tawa said. "And it's not just because she's so tall."
It's because she's so tall and
athletic. And she's improved so rapidly.
Rettke played all sports as a youth: soccer, softball and swimming. However, basketball was her first love. That appeared her future.
But the vivacious teen decided to give volleyball a whirl once she entered high school. It didn't come easy. She didn't play varsity until she was a sophomore, which was about the time Tawa and club coach Kyle Masterson noticed her.
Rettke's rise to prominence has been meteoric.
Masterson told SportsStarsofTomorrow.com
that what stood out about Rettke wasn't her height but "how coordinated she was. You don't see someone that size move that gracefully."
Tawa also recalled his first encounter with Rettke.
"She was a good player," he said. "Certainly someone at her length that opponents had to game plan around."
She played junior varsity as a 6-5 freshman, but Rettke grew physically – passing up her 6-6 dad John – and as a player.
As a sophomore middle blocker, she had 344 kills (47.6 percent per 722 attempts) with 140 blocks, 49 digs and 43 aces. Those numbers improved and balanced out as she began to play entire rotations due to improved ball skills.
As a junior she had 419 kills (47.0), 47 blocks, 190 digs and 64 aces. This season, with one more match and the playoffs pending, she has 410 kills (48.5), 57 blocks, 203 digs and 80 aces.
No longer just a force in the middle, Rettke has developed into a skilled passer and her coordination continues to improve.
Defensively, Rettke changes everything.
"She's a huge blocking force," Tawa said. "She has great block timing and her big presence at the net allows teams she is on to have an elite defensive system."
None of it has come by accident. As her play has improved, so have the Bulldogs, going from 23-14 to 26-10 and now 27-7.
By every account she is an exceptional, unselfish teammate, described by Tawa as "fun-loving," which make her a favorite among teammates and fans.
The sum total is why Wisconsin, currently the nation's No. 1 team, made her part of the top recruiting class in the country.
"By the time she's done at Wisconsin anyone who knows anything about volleyball will know her name" Masterson said. "She's a generational player. There is no ceiling for her."