ONE OF A KIND: Kempner's Ochelli A Blossoming Star
NOT ONLY WAS RUTH OCHELLI ONE OF EIGHT FRESHMEN PLAYING VARSITY VOLLEYBALL IN FORT BEND ISD LAST SEASON, BUT SHE WAS ALSO THE ONLY ONE TO BE NAMED TO AN ALL-DISTRICT FIRST OR SECOND TEAM.
Not too bad for a 15-year-old who only started playing the game three years ago.
Ochelli, Kempner’s 5-foot-11 sophomore outside hitter, compiled 186 kills, 84 digs, 55 aces and 29 blocks for the 20-18 Cougars last year and was named to District 24-5A’s second team.
Oh, and she did all that while playing a new position.
“It was nerve-wracking at first. I’d never played outside (hitter) before, so playing that really helped me with my passing and defense,” said Ochelli, who played middle blocker in junior high. “I was able to be more of a versatile player, and I was able to take that and use it for club (season). In club, I played middle, I played right, I played outside. Now I can play anywhere in the front row.”
Now Ochelli is a blossoming prospect in the Class of 2025. She helped her Houston Skyline 15 black club team—one of Skyline’s two top national teams—to the USA Volleyball Junior Nationals in Indianapolis in July.
Rachel Kessler, then Kempner’s head volleyball coach, now coaching her alma mater at Fort Bend Travis, was drawn to Ochelli’s coachability as an incoming freshman.
Ochelli learned and she adapted, early and often, without complaint.
“Ruth doesn’t understand how good she really is,” Kessler said after 11 games last season. “I love that about her. She has a lot of confidence, but she’s not overconfident. She knows she has a lot to learn, to build. She’s got a lot of potential and room for growth.”
Though a relative newcomer to the sport, Ochelli has never lacked faith in her abilities. As an eighth grader, she remembers going up to Kessler and asking when varsity tryouts would be.
Ochelli always wanted to play varsity as a freshman. She knew she had what it took. She is a natural athlete and showed advanced hitting skills for her age the moment she picked up a volleyball.
“It shows that even though I’d never played the position coach wanted me at, she saw enough potential in me to do it,” Ochelli said of making varsity as a freshman. “I think it shows my work ethic.”
Ochelli said she is grateful for Kessler, who became more than just a coach. She is a trusted friend.
“She was always there for me, always there to give me advice about club or school,” Ochelli said. “I knew I could come to her about anything, even if it wasn’t about volleyball. Even though she’s at another school, I still feel I can reach out to her today.”
Ochelli said her offense is what improved the most throughout last season, specifically hitting and shot selection. She expects her serve-receive to be better this year after working hard this summer to be more accurate with her passes.
“We lost a lot of seniors that had a really good impact on our team,” Ochelli said. “I just want us to make the playoffs. I think we have a really good shot if we play together and as a team.”