Volleyball: Radtke brings raw athletic talent to MTU
HOUGHTON — With the graduations two years ago of Lauren Emmert and Stephanie Dietrich, head coach Matt Jennings and his staff have been looking for players who would form the future of the middle of the of the Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball team’s front row in the future.
With the addition of middle blocker Morgan Radtke, it appears that the Huskies have a player who will go a long way towards filling that gap, perhaps as early as next season.
At first appearance, Radtke is a shy, lanky and raw-looking athlete. Actually, athlete is probably the most apt description. Radtke played volleyball, basketball and softball in high school, excelling at all three.
Radtke racked up over 1,000 kills and 1,000 points in volleyball and basketball in high school, which forced her into a tough decision as to which sport she would want to try to pursue into college. When it came to make that decision, having had the chance to play club volleyball, and have a positive experience with it, helped Radtke decide that volleyball was the right sport for her.
“It definitely helped a lot,” she said. “It helped me reassure because I was debating between if I wanted to pursue basketball or volleyball in college, and I think it helped me reassure that I wanted to play volleyball. I definitely think I made the right decision.”
The Elk Mound, Wisconsin, native was a unanimous Division 3 First Team All-State selection as a senior, racking up 494 kills, a .325 hitting percentage and 86 blocks. She was also named Dunn-St. Croix Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season in the process.
Of course, being 6-foot-2 helps.
“I came from a smaller school,” she said. “I was the tallest girl. I came from a grade of like, 80 kids. I was the tallest girl in my grade, so I was always put in the middle. I played outside and right side if they needed me there, but otherwise, I’ve been in the middle pretty much the entire time.”
While her numbers are impressive, there were times where Radtke was not sure volleyball was the right place for her. As she became an upperclassman, she learned to be a leader, which helped shape her experience.
“We didn’t always have the success that we would want,” Radtke said. “I mean, there were some seasons where we had made it further than previous teams had in awhile.
“I think we, more towards my end of my high school career, I really enjoyed it more, because I think the team gelled a lot more. I think they were more welcoming to the younger kids coming up that are playing on varsity, which was really nice.”
Radtke, and her classmate Jillian Kuizenga, a right side hitter, join an experienced Michigan Tech squad that has made a trip to the NCAA Regional Tournament the last two seasons and is coming off one of the best seasons in school history where the team went 23-7. Given that the Huskies only graduated one senior in right side hitter Mariah Sherman, Radtke is joining a team that has spent a lot of time together over the past two seasons.
“I think it’s awesome that a group of girls has built up to be so welcoming to other girls,” Radtke said. “I think that helps build the chemistry on the team (which) has helped them make the success that they have in the past years. I think will help the team’s success in the future too.”
As a middle, Radtke knows what her role is, helping out her teammates by forcing the ball into an area where they can use it to attack.
“Middle blocking, just helping your defense, getting a touch on the ball, I think that’s a success, because those balls are coming really fast,” she said. “If you don’t line up the block for your passers, that makes it more difficult for them. So I think just helping your teammates better the next ball is a success.”
While she did have success hitting in high school, Radtke feels that where she excels is with using her height to her advantage.
“I think a big thing is being able to kind of read the setter,” she said. “That’s a big thing about playing the middle, because you’re out there to block a lot. I think if you can figure out some key signals that the setters give to you, that’s always a plus in a game. It’s definitely tiny things you have to pick up on.”
However, trying to keep up with where the ball goes can make a middle do a lot of spinning.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m running in circles,” she said with a smile, “but you always just have to figure out how to pace yourself in the game, even though it’s going a million miles an hour.
“You have to set the pace on your side and not let the other side of the court set the pace for you.”
Huskies fans will get a great chance to see Radtke and her new teammates this week as they host the Keweenaw Volleyball Classic. The Huskies host Southwest Minnesota State on Thursday at 7 p.m.