Created:Thursday, November 22, 2012 11:25 p.m.CDT
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Rocket power

Richmond-Burton junior outside attacker Ali Frantti, the Northwest Herald’s Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, helped lead Richmond-Burton to a second-place finish in the IHSA Class 3A state tournament. (Josh Peckler – jpeckler@shawmedia.com)

Richmond-Burton junior outside hitter Ali Frantti’s last four months read more like a Christmas wish list than reality.

Commit to play volleyball at powerhouse Penn State, her dream school? Check.

Lead the Rockets to their first appearance at state? Check.

Put together one of the best offensive seasons in IHSA history? Check.

“It’s been absolutely crazy in a fun way,” Frantti said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just so fortunate, I can’t believe what happened.”

It was never a secret that Frantti was R-B’s go-to player. Yet even though every defense keyed on Frantti, she still racked up 557 kills – 10th most in a single season in IHSA history. Frantti was more than just strong arm with a knack finding a defense’s weakness. She also posted 232 digs, 72 aces and 54 blocks.

“I just want to be the best that I can be,” Frantti said. “Every day I push myself. I want to be the hardest worker in the gym. At the end of the day, I want to leave being the best I could have been.

“I definitely like being that impact player that my team can rely on in difficult times. I kind of like the pressure in a way.”

After leading R-B to a Class 3A runner-up finish during one of the best individual performances in state history, Frantti is the Northwest Herald Volleyball Player of the Year as chosen by the sports staff with input from area coaches. Jacobs’ Alyssa Ehrhardt and Prairie Ridge’s Mackenzi Humm were also considered for the honor.

“She’s gotten so much smarter over the years,” R-B coach Kaycee Kaywood said. “She obviously realizes she’s a power hitter in the area and that people are going to line up on her. She’s done an amazing job finding ways around the block and cutting all those shots that no one thinks are possible.”

Eric Schulze, the general manager of Club Fusion, has known Frantti since she first start playing at Fusion nearly six years ago. Schulze has watched Frantti turn into a tenacious competitor, especially since last season. But when away from the court, Schulze said Frantti stays humble.

“Off the court, talking to Ali, I don’t know if you’d actually know she’s one of the top volleyball players in the country,” Schulze said. “I don’t think you’d be able to figure it out talking to her. She’s a fun-loving, goofy kid that really enjoys I think being a kid and despite all the time she spends training and doing what she does, she truly enjoys life.”

Frantti doesn’t shy away from the big moments, which was exactly what R-B needed during its postseason run. Kaywood and Schulze sat down with Frantti during the playoffs and told her she needed to step up because of her experience in high-pressure seasons with Club Fusion at national tournaments.

Frantti didn’t disappoint. She tallied 22 kills in the Rockets’ Class 3A state semifinal against Jacksonville, nearly single-handedly carrying them into the state final match after they fell behind 1-0. She carried her dominance into the state final against St. Francis, posting a game-high 16 kills.

“What she is doing offensively right now is, at the moment, beyond compare,” Schulze said. “The length, the height, the power and really just the shots. The unbelievable angles that she’s able to create on the volleyball court right now and create them with power is really setting her apart from just about anybody out there right now. … Her ability to use the whole court is really special.”

Once a scrawny, 5-foot-9 freshman, Frantti, now 6-foot-1, still isn’t satisfied. She pointed to her blocking as an area that needs to improve and given her dedication, it would surprise no one if she’s even better next year.

“She’s dedicated to everything she does,” Kaywood said. “She’s a perfectionist and she wants to do everything to her full ability whether that be with her friends or during school or just simple things like putting up a wreath in the hallway, she takes that extra time to get things done like they should be. I think that’s awesome. She’s dedicated to everything and you don’t see that often from high school kids.”