Sports

SK’s Ralph signs to play for East Tennessee State

A sour recruiting process finally turned sweet for Katie Ralph, a 2002 South Kitsap High School graduate.

The reigning Narrows League MVP in volleyball spent her entire senior year trying to find an NCAA Division I school that would take her.

It wasn’t until after graduation Ralph finally saw her dream to play at a Division I school come true when she signed a letter of intent to play at East Tennessee State.

Seattle Pacific University and another Division II school in California had a spot waiting for Ralph.

But when East Tennessee State flew her out for an official visit, Ralph said the program, coach, location, and strong competition was impossible to pass up.

Ralph became the first South Kitsap volleyball player to sign with a Division I school.

Former SK standout Rachelle Cooper currently plays for Western Washington University, a Division II school.

Ralph said the process of finding the right school was not a fun process.

“I was sick of it,” she said. “I probably didn’t do things the way I wanted it. A lot of schools wanted videos but I didn’t get them out until the end of season.”

Ralph said it was her participation in national tournaments with the Puget Sound Volleyball Club that caught the attention of East Tennessee State coach Deane Webb.

“Katie is a very athletic middle hitter who has played in a high-level club program,” Webb said in a press release. “She plays with intensity, and has a real desire to improve. I am very excited about the contributions she will make to our program during this and future years, and I look forward to having her in the gym this fall.”

Ralph said the toughest part about picking a school was the hot and cold attention she would receive from schools.

“Schools would tell me they’re interested in me and then not call back,” Ralph said. “But when East Tennessee State called and said they wanted to fly me out I knew it was serious.”

East Tennessee State is a member of the Southern Conference.

Other members of the league include University of Alabama-Birmingham, UNC-Greensboro, Davidson, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and the College of Charleston.

Ralph said the tough non-conference schedule is also appealing.

East Tennessee State will play Northwestern, Southern Methodist University, Wake Forest, and the University of Tennessee.

East Tennessee State was an at-large bid in the NCAA Division I tournament last year and lost to Pepperdine in the opening round.

Though the school finished with a school-best 20-5 overall record, the team will be reloading, which was another bonus for Ralph.

“I didn’t want to go to a Division I school where I would work real hard in practice and not see the court,” Ralph said. “SPU had a starting spot for me as a freshman. But East Tennessee State has six freshmen coming in this year. It will be an open competition.”

Ralph said she does not expect to walk in and start.

She said she knows she’s going to have to earn it.

But all she looked for was to go to a Division I school where she knew she could get some playing time.

Ralph said the toughest part of going back east will be the distance from home.

“I know it’s going to be hard,” she said. “I’ll be busy enough in the first semester but it will be in the spring when I’ll think about home more. I am excited to be away though.”

Ralph said it would have been easy going to SPU to play with familiar players.

But being anonymous in a different part of the country intrigues her.

“I could have played against girls I know through club ball but I wanted something different,” she said. “I’ll be in a different part of the country and I’ll be playing a different style of volleyball.”

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