It’s arguably the most intriguing and certainly most fun question to ask regarding Riverside-Brookfield High School female athletics. Just how tall is Dana Rettke going to be? She enrolled at RBHS as a 6-foot-5 freshman and now stands 6-7 as a very promising volleyball and basketball player. According to a few folks around the athletic department, she’s easily the tallest female Bulldog to ever patrol Dudley Gymnasium.
“I think I’m still growing,” Rettke said. “I’ve probably got a few more years left.”
Rettke has also grown in terms of her development as an athlete with a more knowledgeable and mature approach about both sports.
“I feel like school always comes first,” Rettke said. “During my freshman year, I felt like I had to prove myself athletically. This year, I just play for myself. I have nothing left to prove.”
Of course, when you’re nearly a foot taller than most of your teammates it’s impossible to fly under the radar. And aside from gawking opponents, coaches or fans that see the towering Rettke for the first time, college recruiters in both volleyball and basketball have taken notice.
Nebraska, Penn State and Notre Dame have expressed interest in her for volleyball, while DePaul, Stanford, Iowa, Wake Forest, Michigan State and Miami (Fla.) are recruiting Rettke for basketball. Assuredly, more college programs will inquire about Rettke. After all, you can’t teach height but you certainly can recruit it.
“I want to keep my options open and there are a lot of different factors in terms of choosing a college,” Rettke said. “If everything goes as planned, I’d like to play college volleyball most likely.”
In some ways, Rettke’s height is just the gift wrapping to her substantive game. She is also a relatively smooth and instinctive athlete with a strong desire to improve. In addition to playing for the Bulldogs, she’s a member of the Triple Ace volleyball club team and Illinois Elite AAU basketball squad.
Last year, Rettke also averaged 8.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in leading the RBHS basketball team along with fellow freshmen standout guards Samantha Cook and Lyndsey Hoyd to a 25-7 record.
“Because I’m so tall a lot of times people don’t know how to play with me,” Rettke said. “Lyndsey and Samantha know how to get the ball to me in good spots. We play really well together.
“Sometimes, I see Lyndsey and Samantha working on post moves. If they keep going into the lane, I think I’ll probably start working on my point guard skills.”
The return of the Bulldogs’ “Big 3” plus other solid contributors like Janae Dabney and Miranda Chavez bodes well for another successful hoops campaign under coach Dallas Till.
“Dana made an immediate impact as a first-year varsity player,” Till said. “She is a difference maker in all facets of the game. Her ability to alter shots and the way she gets up and down the floor for a player of her size and stature is probably the most impressive part of her game. She also has a soft touch around the basket and passes extremely well out of double teams.”
There’s still room for improvement, however, in both sports for the Bulldogs’ burgeoning star.
“There a lot of things that Dana needs to work on, but she has definitely made huge strides this season.” RBHS volleyball coach Dan Bonarigo said. “The strength of our team is our players work very hard. We’re not a one-player team. We try to get Dana the ball in a timely fashion and she gets some blocks and aces.”
Added Till: “Dana is such a talented kid in so many areas that I think it’s difficult for her to focus on exactly what she wants to be great at. She’s worked hard in the offseason and I believe her game will improve tremendously as her career progresses.
During the volleyball regular season, Rettke surpassed the single-season blocks record of 102, previously held by Jenny Law in 1986-87. She’s also tied for third for most kills in a season (316 kills) with Jennifer Halusek from 1992-93. Kathy Jurgens owns the record with 366 kills in 1988-89.
With Rettke dictating play at the net as an intimidating middle blocker, the Bulldogs (21-13, 8-4 Metro Suburban) are peaking at the right time of the season.
Setter Olivia Gyssler, libero Natalia Gheewala and middle blocker Nicole LaBelle have also sparked the Bulldogs during their hot streak. RBHS has won 11 of its past 14 matches with the playoffs starting on Oct. 28 at home against Willowbrook in regional action.
“The season has been going really well,” Rettke said. “We’re playing much better than I expected. From Day 1, our defense has improved a lot. Everybody meshes well together and we’re a very good defensive team.”