NORTH ROBINSON – They’ve done everything together growing up, it was only fitting they continue their volleyball careers together.
Well, sort of.
Colonel Crawford twins Rylee and Reagan Ritzhaupt put the pen to paper Thursday morning committing to Otterbein University and Heidelberg University respectively. Their parents, Sean and Kendra, donned homemade shirts with both school logos on them.
“We looked in the OAC, visited a lot together and had coaches talk to us at the same time,” Rylee said.
“I really liked the Heidelberg campus more than Otterbein and she liked Otterbein more,” Reagan added. “And the academics, too.”
For Rylee, the younger sister, this was something she dreamt of growing up.
She was a standout on the varsity team all four years totaling 1,127 kills, 50 aces, 123 blocks, 695 digs and 429 receptions. She was an honorable mention All-Ohioan as a junior and senior, and helped power the Eagles to their first sectional championship in a decade. Senior year she had 345 kills, 43 aces, 56 blocks, 410 digs and 340 receptions.
“I just love the atmosphere of a volleyball game and nothing really compares to the friendships you make playing volleyball,” Rylee said. “I knew after my last game I wasn’t done and that I wanted to continue to play. It’s something I’ve thought about for a very long time.”
Reagan, on the other hand, realized it was something she wanted and worked tirelessly toward it the last two years.
Her breakthrough came in her junior year when she slotted into the lineup and became an immediate contributor with 160 kills, 13 blocks and 60 digs. She took on an even bigger role this past fall alongside her sister giving Colonel Crawford arguably the best 1-2 punch in the area. Her numbers improved dramatically — 299 kills, 53 aces, 37 blocks, 323 digs and 186 receptions — and she developed into just as big of a threat as her sister.
“Since I started late, my passion has grown really fast,” Reagan said. “It’s just exciting to see where else I can go in skill and ability, too.
“I feel like I have more to give. I loved Crawford volleyball so I know I’ll love Heidelberg volleyball — maybe even more.”
Their coach, Taylor Heiby, stepped down in January but had been with these girls from the start. She was varsity assistant Rylee’s freshman year before taking over in 2020 for her sophomore season, then both of their junior and senior years.
“I was in their shoes a long time ago and it’s just a different feeling,” Heiby said. “These girls have worked so hard on, and off, the court. If they are not in a high school sport they’re either in club volleyball or in a high school gym getting in reps. That is what shows and that is why they’re going to the next level.
“It’s totally different atmosphere, but they will both do great and I’m so excited to watch them in the fall.”
Both are multi-sport athletes — swim in the winter, track in the spring — but volleyball is No. 1 in their hearts.
“I just love that it’s a team sport and the emotion it brings out,” Reagan said. “Track is so individual, I still love it, but there’s something about volleyball.”
When it came to choosing their respective colleges, academics was a major factor for both. Along with how they felt about joining new programs.
“I’m doing the Plus-One Advantage program at Heidelberg and getting my MBA there,” Reagan said.
“When I was talking to the coach she started tearing up talking about their last season and how much she’s going to miss those seniors,” Rylee, who plans on going into the Allied Health program for pre-physical therapy, added. “That reminded me a lot of what we built this year.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to be part of.”
And with both schools in the Ohio Athletic Conference, they’ll go from teaming up to facing each other very soon.
“We’re really excited for that,” Reagan said. “(Our parents will) wear these shirts again.”
But there is one big thing Reagan will miss about playing with Rylee.
“She knows how to calm me down on the court, nobody else will really get that,” Reagan said.
“And just having my best friend at every practice and game is going to be different.”