Ridgewater's Roelike reaching new heights in college atmosphere

If there wasn't a ceiling in the gym at Ridgewater College, chances are Emily Roelike would have jumped out of it by now. The willowy freshman hitter from Belgrade, wowed a nearly-packed house Oct. 31 at the college gym in Willmar in the Region 1...

Here's a tip
Ridgewater's Emily Roelike, left, a freshman from Belgrade, springs to stuff a tip by Leah Riley of Minnesota West at the college in Willmar on Oct. 14. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

If there wasn't a ceiling in the gym at Ridgewater College, chances are Emily Roelike would have jumped out of it by now. The willowy freshman hitter from Belgrade, wowed a nearly-packed house Oct. 31 at the college gym in Willmar in the Region 13A final against Rochester, soaring high above the net to record 17 kills.

Each time Roelike went airborne up for an attack, a boisterous "boom" echoed throughout the gym, a sound several fans made even before her hand met the ball, seemingly as a premonition that she would soon crash the floorboards with one of her thunderous kills.

"It's all in her approach speed, her arm swing and her wrist snap," said Ridgewater coach Joe Sussenguth. "Her quickness to the ball is unlike any hitter I've ever seen. With all her momentum to the ball on her approach, she gains a great deal of force. It's similar to a military jet taking off an aircraft carrier."

Roelike (pronounced REHL-kee) was the West Central Tribune co-winner of the Hengstler-Ranweiler Award for outstanding female high school athlete in the area. She shared the honor with her Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa classmate, Heidi Lensing, who is one of the top hitters for the Minnesota State, Moorhead volleyball team as a freshman.

Roelike stands only 5-foot-7, but plays much taller with her excellent vertical leaping ability. Although it's never been measured, Sussenguth estimates Roelike's springiness to be around 25-30 inches.


"Without question she'd more of a formidable outside hitter with a couple of extra inches," he said. "Blocking, or getting touches on the slide attack at the Division I level is important to their level of play. Her defensive and serve-receive skills could place her in lineups at the Division I level."

Roelike is leading the Lady Warriors in kills with 285, is second in kill efficiency (.292) and is second in digs (284). She also is serving 95 percent. Her prowess against Rochester helped the Lady Warriors win the regional title and move on to today's NJCAA Division III tournament in Rochester. The Lady Warriors, seeded No. 2, open against Butler County Community College (Pa.) at 11 a.m. The tournament concludes on Saturday.

"I'm not usually nervous about playing," said Roelike. "But I'm nervous about nationals. I wasn't nervous playing in high school either until we got to the state tournament. But I'll be okay once we start."

Roelike, who is in the veterinarian tehnicican program at Ridgerwater, is laid back off the court and much more comfortable not talking about herself. Each question pertaining to her individual success is followed by a brief response, as if she isn't the least bit interested. She would much rather talk about team accomplishments than her own.

"She's very humble," Sussenguth said. "But she always demands the best from herself. She thrives in being a part of the success that the team has and would rather have the spotlight be on the team."

But on the court, the attention is immediately drawn to her with her leaping prowess, thunderous hits, high energy and fist pumping.

"Emily has a strong influence in the demeanor of our team and she can draw a great reaction from the crowd," Sussenguth remarked. "Her effort on each point is something that the whole team recognizes and they match it. However, if a couple of swings go long, our team can pull her back into the match too."

Roelike grew up on a farm outside Belgrade with her parents, Joel and Joyce, two brothers, Chris and Josh, and two sisters, Alicia and Brittany.


She became interested in all sports at an early age, mixing it up with the boys in whatever sport was being played.

"I took a few shots," she laughed. "But I gave out some, too."

Roelike possesses an arm that any prep male would be proud to showcase on the diamond. She played baseball ever since she can remember, going up through the ranks of Pee Wees and Little League. In fact, she played second base for the Lake Henry American Legion baseball team this summer. Although she will be too old to play Legion baseball next summer, several observers are trying to convince her to play amateur baseball.

"I haven't made up my mind yet," she said. "They tell me I would be the first girl to play amateur baseball and it would be so cool if I played. But I'm just not sure if I will or not."

Roelike played volleyball, basketball and softball in high school for Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and was named All-Area in each sport. She will forego basketball at Ridgewater, but will also play softball where she is a shortstop with uncanny range and can hit for both average and power.

Surely she must have a weakness to her game. Even Superman was weakened by Kryptonite.

"From the outside looking in, there isn't really a weakness to her game," Sussenguth said. "She's obviously solid offensively, defensively and in serve receive. From the inside looking out, she'll continue to develop off-speed shots, maybe some cross-body attacks and possibly add some type of jump serve in the future."

For now, though, she'll just put her cape on and soar through the air in Rochester, trying to help the Lady Warriors bring home a national title.


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