Honorable mention: Ella Spaethling

 Her laugh, athletic ability and height are hard to miss when spotting her in the halls or seeing her play her position as hitter on the court. Inspired by her older sister, senior Ella Spaethling has been playing volleyball since the fifth grade.

“My older sister played volleyball, and me being the younger sibling I am, I did exactly what she did and I tried it. The club nearby was also kind of recruiting me and asking if I was going to play, and I tried out, so here we are,” Spaethling said.  

Courtesy of Ella Spaethling
Spaethling posing for headshot photo before her season.

Spaethling started her volleyball career on the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) team, and played on the team until eighth grade. After CYO, Spaethling joined the Absolute Volleyball club team, in addition to trying out for Redwood volleyball. While Spaethling didn’t make varsity freshman year, she worked her way up to varsity for the next three years and is now on her way to play at the Division 1 level at San Diego State University (SDSU).

While it may seem that Spaethling has had an easy progression throughout her volleyball career, she had to work on the mental side of the sport in order to improve, make varsity and be able to play at a collegiate level.

“I think I improved in my mental ability in the fact that if I made a lot of mistakes, I was able to not freak out because when you’re younger you constantly think everything you do is a huge deal and so you just have to think of it as just a volleyball game,” Spaethling said.

As Spaethling was working to improve her personal skills, she became captain this year, which was especially important as her team had a new coach this season. Former Redwood volleyball player Ursula Kunhardt coached the varsity girls’ team this year and is proud of Spaethling’s accomplishments and improvements even from just one season.

Courtesy of Anna Compagno
Getting ready to hit the ball, Spaethling jumps above the net.

“I think [Spaethling] felt frustrated for parts of the season with how the team was doing, and how things were meshing and certain things she was trying to work on as a player. I think she used her frustration and hardship as motivation, which I really admire about her. She definitely improved on trying to control the mental side of the game,” Kunhardt said.

While didn’t win MCAL’s this year, Spaethling’s leadership skills were especially noticeable to her coach and teammate junior Lucy Walsh, who started playing varsity with Spaethling halfway through Walsh’s freshman season.

“I’m her setter, and I think setters and hitters always have the best connection on the court. Especially last year, we connected a lot, there was more energy on the court, we flowed really well together, and she’s also a really good leader on the team. She made us more motivated,” Walsh said.

As this was Spaethling’s last season with Walsh and her other teammates, she is worried about leaving behind a team that she is comfortable with and starting with a new team as a younger player.

Courtesy of Anna Compagno
Keeping her focus, Spaethling prepares to serve the ball to the opposing team.


“I’m very excited to have high-level training and just be in really good shape. I’m going to miss the chemistry and the safety of knowing everyone. I’m a little nervous about making friends, and to be the small fish in a big pond, instead of a big fish in a small pond,” Spaethling said.

As Spaethling prepares to leave the comfort of her Redwood team to play at the Division 1 level at SDSU, her coach and teammates are looking forward to see her grow as a player and person in the next four years.

“I really hope for her that she really enjoys her time at San Diego State, and really thrives as much as she can, and works hard, continues her training and brings the mindset that really worked for her in high school to her career as a collegiate athlete,” Kunhardt said. “She’s a great person, I’m really proud of her and all she’s accomplished in the past years at Redwood.”