Eighth-Grader Shines For Minnetonka Volleyball Team
CLICK THE VIDEO BOX ON THIS PAGE TO SEE THIS STORY AS IT AIRED ON 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS
She stands 5-foot-6, and attends a school where her eighth grade class has fewer students than a volleyball team does. That said, Isabelle Aragon-Menzel has taken a huge step - earning a spot as the starting setter on the state-ranked Minnetonka volleyball team.
Aragon-Menzel laughs when asked if she believed she could make the leap to a high school varsity team despite being a year away from actually attending high school.
"Honestly, I was coming to tryouts for the experience," Aragon-Menzel admits, "...and to prepare myself for next year when I am actually in high school."
Another admission followed that statement.
"I didn't really think I would make varsity, if we're being honest," she laughs.
Skippers coach Karl Katzenberg knew of Aragon-Menzel, but was curious when she signed up for the varsity tryouts.
"This is such a big school district, and, that was a bit of a surprise, it took us aback at tryouts," Katzenberg says. "But we identified Isabella as our best chance to win and we made the decision to proceed."
Not only did Isabelle make the Skippers varsity, she's now installed as their starting setter. Her talent is a big part of her success, but she's also earned the respect of her teammates.
"She's doing way better than any of us thought an 8th grader ever could do," said Emily Siefering - a senior captain on the team.
The Skippers other senior captain was stunned how well Isabelle played right from the start.
"She is so calm for an 8th grader, it's shocking," senior captain Emily Fredrickson said. "I would be so nervous. Honestly, even the first match, she was calm. If she makes a little mistake she kind of shrugs it off. She's super consistent, which as a setter is something you need."
"Any 8th grader, most of them, would be really nervous in their first game," Siefering adds. "Watching her play in her first game, she absolutely killed it out there. Every time I high-fived her, she was all smiles."
Katzenberger credits Aragon-Menzel for hitting the floor with a fearless attitude.
"She's a good athlete, but she's really fearless," he says. "She's out there playing with kids 4-5 years older than her and not afraid to hit the floor and not afraid to push kids out of the way and... certainly not afraid to try and make her best effort when it's a big spot."
Aside from earning her stripes on the floor, Isabelle has had to adjust to leaving the security of her tight-knit community at Excelsior's St. John The Baptist School when she heads to massive Minnetonka for her afternoon extra-curriculars.
How "tight-knit" is her 8th grade class at St John's?
"Including me there's seven," she says. "All my friends, they're so nice... all six of them. I love 'em all so much and they're the best classmates, I couldn't ask for any other classmates."
It makes her transition to varsity athletics at Minnetonka - where the 27-hundred-plus student body is among the state's largest - even more impressive.
"To walk into this environment, it's apples and oranges certainly," Katzenberger laughs. "I can imagine in 8th grade I was concerned with making sure I had my shirt on straight coming to school. I can't imagine the transition it's been for Isabelle."
It goes to show that a little talent and the right attitude can take you anywhere.
"She works hard," Fredrickson compliments.
"She's so nice and funny, and we all just love her to death," Siefering gushes.
How does Isabelle describe the experience?
It's all surreal, I guess... Is the best word," she saisd. "It's really fun, I'm having a great time."