1A volleyball — C.S. Lewis Academy standout makes her college choice official, fulfilling a lifelong dream

With avid volleyball players as parents and an older sister who earned a college scholarship playing the sport, perhaps it was inevitable that C.S. Lewis Academy senior Mikaela Raudsepp would be a standout in the family sport.

But it sure didn’t feel that way to her as an eighth grade student riding the bench for pretty much the entire club ball season at the Oregon Juniors Volleyball Academy in Beaverton.

But how Raudsepp responded to that situation was just as crucial to her development as her genetics, sparking a level of drive and determination that is equally impressive as her imposing 6-foot-2 SETH GORDON - Stellar - Mikaela Raudsepp signed with the Wichita State Shockers after a standout senior season at C.S. Lewis Academy that saw the Watchmen beat conference rivals St. Paul, Veritas, Perrydale and Country Christian for the first time in addition to qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in program history.

The combination of the two makes her a force at the high school and club levels, and as of a last month, a Division I recruit as well after Raudsepp signed a national letter of intent to play for Wichita State University.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the Olympics or play professionally in Europe and getting a scholarship to play in college is the first step,” Raudsepp said. “I’m obviously very excited and proud of what I’ve done, but truthfully, it starts here.”

As a small child, Raudsepp tagged along to watch her mother, Theresa, and father, Karl, play on a weekly basis, then found herself shagging balls and practicing on the side when older sister Mariah picked up the sport in sixth grade.

Theresa, who was a standout at then-Division II Portland State, coached both girls in middle school at C.S. Lewis, with Mikaela playing one year of club ball with what is now the Willamette Valley Volleyball Club before following Mariah to Oregon Juniors in eighth grade.

But the level of play was a shock to Mikaela, who played just a handful of minutes in a whole season with the Oregon Juniors 14-U gold squad.

“I just decided that this wasn’t what I wanted, I wanted to be playing and I knew that I could get better,” Mikaela Raudsepp said. “I knew that I was still growing. I knew that I had tons of potential athletically coming from both my parents. I just made the decision mentally that it would be hard, but I’m going to do it.”

So she dedicated herself to improving, working with an assistant coach on conditioning, strength training and fundamentals for an hour before each club practice.

She quickly proved that she belonged on the court during her freshman year on the 16-U Gold team, playing aggressively and with confidence.

“I motivate myself when people tell me that I can’t do something,” she said. “That’s not necessarily the only way I motivate myself, but that gives me so much drive to prove someone wrong. I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve gotten this far.”

The first time, it was being told she would never play after riding the pine in eighth grade, the following off season it was that she couldn’t pass or be more than a three-rotation outside hitter. Whatever the challenge or shortcoming, she met it head on and overcame it.

“She definitely rises to the occasion,” Oregon Juniors coach Steve Suttich said. “Last year at nationals, there were two or three matches that we were playing against top-10, top-20 clubs and she was battling and competing. There was one game against the team that won our division and we couldn’t get her enough balls. We would set her the ball and she would put the ball down. She just proved she can play with the big girls and now it’s a function of doing it every match.”

That certainly raised Raudsepp’s recruiting profile, but after considering several schools, including Tennessee, Florida State, Northern Colorado, Colorado State and Montana State, among others, she chose the Shockers.

Wichita State head coach Chris Lamb has known Suttich and Raudsepp’s other coaches at Oregon Juniors for more than 20 years and was advised to check her out last winter.

“I thought she was a complete package and then getting to know Mikaela makes it that much better,” Lamb said. “She’s such a wonderful human being. You can tell she goes hard, she’s wonderful to be with, her family is an exceptional volleyball family and that’s kind of cool. It was all green lights for me.”

Mikaela Raudsepp visited the school in April and made a verbal commitment to the Shockers, but didn’t announce it publicly, preferring to wait until it became official with a signing ceremony at C.S. Lewis last month.

“I did a lot of praying and I think it came down to when I stayed with the freshman girls,” Raudsepp said. “When I walked into the room where the girls were staying, there was a Bible quote on the wall, Jeremiah 29:11. I just kind of knew at that point. On top of that, Chris Lamb and his coaching staff are absolutely incredible.”

Lamb said Raudsepp has a good shot to play one of three open positions as a freshman and plans to continue evaluating her during the upcoming club season so that he can find the best spot for her and train the rest of the team with that in mind during the six-week spring season.

“We’re a really good fit for her and she’s obviously a really good fit for us,” Lamb said. “She can have a great career here. She can be a star in our town. She’s going to walk in the door with the ability to play early and be on the court for at least three years as a busy player.”

Raudsepp is coming off the best high school season of her career, having led the Watchmen to a series of impressive firsts this fall.

C.S. Lewis earned its first-ever wins over league opponents St. Paul, Veritas, Country Christian and Perrydale this season, helping it to qualify for the district tournament for the first time in program history.

It didn’t stop there, as the Watchmen qualified for the state tournament, advancing to the second round, where it fell to eventual 1A state champion Imbler in a close three-set loss.

Mikaela Raudsepp said she hopes to become more consistent this winter during club season and Suttich said he will be relying on her to be the force she was a nationals a year ago starting from day one.

“I feel like I can finally go in and be proud of what we’ve accomplished as a school,” Raudsepp said. “So I can take that pride in and say, ‘This is something that I’ve done. Now the work begins and let’s see what I can do now.’”

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