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Sports Spotlight: Ella Spaethling BY ANNA COMPAGNO

Walking inside after a long day of school, senior Ella Spaethling, unlike her fellow classmates, is just beginning to start her day. She packs her dinner, changes into her volleyball gear and drives an hour and a half to the South Bay. After practicing for two and a half hours, she drives home. At about 9:30 p.m., she finally walks inside ready to start homework and wind down, hoping to go to bed at a decent hour.

Although this may sound strenuous, Spaethling uses her commitment and work ethic to her advantage. A three-year varsity player, Spaethling is a key asset to the girls’ varsity volleyball team. If being a captain, honorable mention in MCALs as a junior and being featured in the Marin Independent Journal as Prep of the Week isn’t impressive enough, she is already committed to play Division I volleyball at San Diego State University in the fall of 2019.

With a father who rowed and a mother who played basketball in college, it was obvious from a young age that Spaethling would be an athlete. Growing watching her sister, Marguerite Spaethling, play volleyball she was inspired to try out the sport herself. Marguerite graduated from Redwood in 2016 and currently plays Division III volleyball at Colorado College.

“I spent of a lot of time watching [Marguerite] play in tournaments, whether it was in San Mateo or Denver, or just going to her games when she played in high school,” Spaethling said. “When I was younger we would go together and watch Ursula Kunhardt, [the current girls’ varsity volleyball coach], when she played here. It definitely drove me to want to play volleyball.”

Spaethling started playing CYO volleyball for St. Patrick's School in fifth grade. Wanting to advance her level of play, she joined a local club volleyball team, Absolute, in sixth grade. Playing for the top teams from ages 12 to 15, Spaethling decided to switch club teams and join Vision her sophomore year. Vision is located in Los Gatos and in 2016 they ranked 10th in the nation, third in the state and first in northern California. During her sophomore year, her team came in first place at Junior Nationals, the largest tournament in the country in the national division.

According to Spaethling, club volleyball is different compared to high school because it is more intense and more focused on becoming an all-around better player.

“Club has helped me not just with my skills. Going down to the South Bay has helped me become a better passer and more aggressive hitter,” Spaethling said.

Although it is only her first year coaching at Redwood, Ursula Kunhardt has already marked Spaethling as a key player and leader on the court. According to Kunhardt, when she first saw Spaethling play at tryouts she was excited to work with her this season.

“She reminds me of girls I have coached in the past because of her style of play and how powerful she is on the court physically and as a leader. She’s already exceeded a lot of my expectations. She’s such a solid and reliable captain,” Kunhardt said.

Along with being a standout player, Kunhardt also praised Spaethling for her sense of humor, communication skills and drive to keep improving her game.

“She is a workhorse. Always asking questions and wanting to get better, even as a senior. When I was a senior, I was complacent with where I was once I knew I was going to play in college. She’s going off and playing [Division I] volleyball next fall, and the fact that she is not settling and still striving to get better shows that she is meant to be a starter and meant to be leading this team,” Kunhardt said.

Co-captain, senior setter Britney Klein, has been playing volleyball with Spaethling since fifth grade. They played alongside each other in CYO, club volleyball at Absolute and all three years of varsity at Redwood. According to Klein, she admires Spaethling because she pushes her teammates to work hard in a positive way.

“[Spaethling] brings so much energy, and we look to her to hype us up when we need it. She cares a lot about volleyball and brings a certain intensity to the court. She definitely keeps us focused and serious, but in a good way,” Klein said.

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