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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette volleyball is the beneficiary of two high school teammates

Photo by Alex DeBuhr
Ella Foti goes for a kill in a Marquette women’s volleyball game.

First-year outside hitter Natalie Ring’s first collegiate kill was set up by a familiar face.

The set came from sophomore setter Ella Foti in a match against then-No. 11 Kentucky. For those watching in Madison, Wisconsin it was something they’d seen before, but not with Foti and Ring wearing a Marquette jersey or at the collegiate level. Instead, they were used to watching the connection in high school gyms across Wisconsin.

Both Ring and Foti played together at Edgewood High School in Madison before making the trip down I-94 to Milwaukee and Marquette.

“It’s awesome,” Edgewood volleyball head coach Eliza Johnson said. “It’s great to see them just out there and excelling and it’s nice to see them stay local.”

Foti committed to Marquette in 2018 during her first year of high school and two months after tearing her ACL.

“At the end of the day I chose Marquette because of not only the culture, the great academics here and the coaches, but also because I felt like they believed in me,” Foti said. “Two months earlier I’d actually torn my ACL and they were the only school that actually offered me (a scholarship) after I did that.”

After receiving a scholarship offer from Marquette, Ring didn’t have to look much further than Foti, who was already assisting her on the court and went to have a conversation with her.

“When Marquette first offered me I knew the first thing I had to do was go talk to Ella about it,” Ring said. “I knew I had to have a conversation and be like ‘This is the situation I’m in, they’ve offered me. One: what do you think of the school and two, the big part for me of that conversation was asking her how do you feel about me coming to Marquette?'”

Foti said she was there to support Ring, but also used a hands-off approach during her recruitment.

“I’m like this is a great spot. It’s in a cool city, we have a great winning culture coming here for volleyball. It’s a great school,” Foti said. “But ultimately I want you to come here because this is the right fit for you and if you do that it’s just a bonus for me and we get to play together again.”

In high school, both Foti and Ring racked up numerous individual accolades, including being named All-State First Team selections multiple times.

“It wasn’t really about getting the accolades for me. I just wanted our team to do as well as we could and the accolades were a product of me putting my best foot forward for the team,” Ring said. “My play kind of spoke for itself and it wasn’t trying to be all state, it was trying to get our team to go to state.”

Heading into the 2020 season, Foti, Ring and their teammates weren’t sure if they’d have a chance of making it to state, especially with being located in Dane County.

“We made a huge team effort. With COVID everything was unknown and basically we put in extra hours to be prepared for this weird kind of season we’re going to have,” Foti said. “Because we’re from Madison, Dane County area there wasn’t going to be any games in Dane County because of the rules for COVID.”

There was still a season, just not a conventional one.

“Our schedule was sort of pieced together like we didn’t have a conference to play in, but we were able to go and compete,” Johnson said. “We actually went 14-1 and we played some outstanding volleyball to make our way to the state tournament.”

Edgewood was making its run through the state tournament and had swept every team on its way to playing at state. The team qualified for state, but was unable to play because one of the players tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was devastating,” Foti said. “That was kind of my dream for high school was to go to state.”

The next step for her was when she enrolled early at Marquette in 2020 for the spring semester.

Marquette head coach Ryan Theis said he was able to watch the state run, but because of his own team’s busy schedule he wasn’t able to watch the two Golden Eagle recruits play much in Madison.

“I really have not seen them play a lot of matches together other than like their state tournament run (and) you’re watching online,” Theis said. “They were just two really good players at a pretty small private school, really physical and doing a lot for their team. So that part was enjoyable because you didn’t get to see it as much as you normally would.”

Ring then joined the Golden Eagles this season, with Foti there to help with the transition to college.

“It was definitely helpful, especially in the transition. I got to know the girls in her class really well when I was in high school because me and Ella were friends,” Ring said. “I felt like I definitely came in with stronger connections that I would have without Ella and I playing at the same school.”

Now, after trading in their maroon and gold both are at Marquette in the midst of the greatest start to a season the Golden Eagles have ever had. Marquette is the No. 16 team in the country and is currently undefeated in conference play.

Foti has become a key rotation player while Ring seemingly makes the most of every opportunity she has on the court.

“It’s been honestly kind of wild. Coming in we have first-years, we have transfers. Not a lot of us have played together. One of our middles, Hattie Bray redshirted with me last year,” Foti said. “We felt like no one was really expecting anything from us, so lets just go out there and have fun and play hard and see what happens.”

The Golden Eagles are now 15-1 and are on a 13-game win streak, and have goals for how they want to finish out the year. 

“It’s on all our minds to win the Big East Championship again and be able to have a deep run in the tournament,” Ring said.

This story was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at b[email protected] or on Twitter @benschultz52.

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