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Prep volleyball: A catwalk catalyst

West Ranch junior foregoes promising modeling career to play the game she loves

Posted: October 9, 2010 11:13 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2010 11:13 p.m.
West Ranch junior middle blocker Angel Rutledge nearly didn’t play for the Wildcats, but her love for the game and her teammates brought her back. West Ranch junior middle blocker Angel Rutledge nearly didn’t play for the Wildcats, but her love for the game and her teammates brought her back.
West Ranch junior middle blocker Angel Rutledge nearly didn’t play for the Wildcats, but her love for the game and her teammates brought her back.

She might look familiar.

It may be hard to recognize her without her hair done and all the makeup, but she’s the same girl — Angel Rutledge, a middle blocker for West Ranch’s volleyball team.

She spent the first six months of this year modeling for various magazines and online publications, but at 15 years old, she decided to stick with volleyball.

“Once I came back and tried out again, it made me realize I have a really big love for the sport, and I can see myself playing volleyball more than I can see myself modeling, and I enjoy it way more than modeling,” says Rutledge. “I feel like volleyball is what I’m supposed to do.”

Rutledge, now a junior, played on the varsity team last year as a sophomore. During that season, she first began considering trying out modeling.

“It’s something people have always been telling me to do it so I just said ‘Why not, I’ll just go try it,’” she says. “I tried it out, and I enjoyed it. It was fun while it lasted.”

In January, she went to open casting at the Ford Modeling Agency in Los Angeles. They asked her a few questions, snapped a few photos, and they signed her on the spot.

Before she knew it, she was travelling to New York City for photo shoots and appearing in fashion magazines like Chaos and Nylon. She also modeled for Pacific Sunwear’s website.

She quit playing club volleyball, and she quit attending West Ranch High School to get into an independent study program that allowed her to travel frequently without missing regular amounts of school. She was a full-time model making money and living the glamorous life. It was quite a change of pace from spending her evenings practicing volleyball.

“I’m not used to make-up because I don’t really wear it, so when people are just poking at my eyes and my face and their hands are just ripping my hair, brushing it and trying to make it how they need it to be and all that stuff, I wasn’t really used to all that,” Rutledge says.

Despite the poking and prodding, she was having fun, and her modeling career seemed to be taking off.

That was until the spring hit, and boys volleyball season started up.

Nate Sparks, head coach of both the boys and girls teams at West Ranch recalled her approaching him during a boys match she attended.

“She sort of talked to me and said, ‘I miss high school, my friends, etc. I miss playing volleyball. I’m going to come back and play next year.’ I said, ‘Great. You’re always more than welcome to,’” he says.

For Rutledge, there was never a doubt that she was going to go back to play volleyball.

As for modeling?

“I’m not the girly girl that likes modeling that much,” she says. “I never really talked about it, I just did it just for kicks.”

Though it’s easy for Rutledge to have a laid back attitude about it now, her friend and teammate Hannah Orlandi was afraid she would never return to volleyball.

When Orlandi, who is a senior outside hitter on the team, first heard the news that Rutledge had dropped out of West Ranch for the spring semester to pursue modeling, she tried to talk her friend out of it.

“We really needed her because she was a huge aspect of the team,” Orlandi says. “I tried to convince her to come back.”
At the start of summer club play, Rutledge decided she couldn’t be without the sport she loved any longer. She began training and getting back into volleyball in preparation for varsity tryouts in the fall.

“Sometimes, they’ll make fun of me for it,” Rutledge says of her teammates’ response when she came back. “They at least say ‘Oh look, it’s a model. Is that a model?’ when I walk in. It was funny, but now it’s kind of gone because people forget about it, and the focus is on volleyball because this is my sport. This is my thing and this is what I’m doing.”

Now back in school and back on the team at West Ranch, she couldn’t be happier, and she couldn’t be more focused.

“I was surprised, especially with her being gone as long as she was,” Orlandi says. “She was able to come back and be such a strong player. She’s more aggressive at the net.”

Last year, the 6-foot tall Rutledge spent most of her time standing at the net and blocking shots from the other side. This year, she’s taken on a bigger role in the offense and improved her hitting skills.

“I always play middle because that’s where my team needs me at, but I would love to play other positions like opposite or an outside,” she says. “But I’m playing where my coaches and my team need me.”

As of now, she’s fourth on the team with 173 kills while leading the Wildcats with 31 total blocks.

Saying the team is happy to have her back might be an understatement. At least those are the sentiments of one teammate.

“I still supported her 100 percent because she was doing what she wanted to do, but I wanted her back because she’s one of my closest friends,” Orlandi says. “I wanted her here my senior year.”


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