Hortonville coach credits players, staff
By Erik Buchinger
Hortonville’s season ended in defeat, but first-year head coach Celeste Ratka helped the program do something it had not done since 1987 – take the Polar Bears to state.
Hortonville had come close a few times in recent years under former coach Jeff Chew, losing in the sectional semifinals in 2015 and came one win away from state last season.
When Chew and Hortonville parted ways in August 2016, it opened up a spot for Ratka to return to the school she played for in high school under her maiden name of Hoewisch.
“With a coaching change and new system and things like that, it can not always go very smooth,” Ratka said. “I’ve been a part of that as a player, and I understand all that goes into that, and the credit goes to the kids.”
Ratka played for UW-Green Bay and professionally in Europe before taking a job as the University of Illionis’ video coordinator under her college coach Matt Bollant from 2012-’15.
Ratka then moved to Germantown as a stay-at-home mom raising her daughter before returning to the Fox Valley with her husband Aaron after accepting the Hortonville head coaching position.
Ratka said from the beginning of her coaching tenure at her alma mater that the program’s success is a community-wide effort. She said getting to state in her first season has been a great experience with all the support she has received.
“It’s been amazing, but I definitely would not be here without the players that we have and the coaching staff that we have,” Ratka said. “It takes a village to run a program, and I can even go as far as saying my family helping out with my daughter to be able to have time to prepare for games and make the travel easy and durable. My mom has been amazing helping with family things. It really takes a village, and it’s not a one-person show.”
Ratka’s father Dean Hoewisch joined her to be the varsity team’s assistant coach, and she said she has been happy with the administrative support of her pgrogram.
“I also need to recognize our administration at Hortonville,” Ratka said. “They’re second to none, and they’ve been amazing through this entire process and really were the pieces that sold me on this program. Their support has been tremendous.”
The players made for an easy transition this season, Ratka said.
“They really bought in, really believed and they were hungry to win,” Ratka said. “That’s all you can ask for as a coach for kids that are willing to do the hard stuff to get it done. I was just extremely blessed in the situation that I came into.”
Ratka took over a team that featured two NCAA Division I recruits with senior forward Morgan Allen, who signed to play for IUPUI, and junior guard Shay Frederick, who is committed to Valparaiso.
“With Coach coming in, we knew we could do anything,” Frederick said. “Especially with who she brought in, her experience, her knowledge for the game and just the talent we have, we knew we could accomplish anything.”
The Polar Bears finished with a 20-6 overall record, including 14-4 in the FVA, second place to undefeated Appleton North, which won the WIAA Division I state title.
Frederick said though the season ended with a 46-36 loss to Cudahy in the state semifinals on Friday, March 10 at the Resch Center in Green Bay, the Polar Bears should be proud of their historic season.
“We’ve gone through so much, and Coach knows what she’s doing and pushed us to our limits that’s’ for sure,” Frederick said. “Just working hard all year and making it here because it’s been our goal, especially coming up short last year. I think it’s been incredible, and we have nothing to hang our heads about.”
Ratka said being together as a team is what she is most proud of from her first season as the Polar Bears’ head coach.
“That’s one thing I shared with the girls from day one is it’s going to be a team effort, and it’s not about one person,” Ratka said. “It’s about all of us, and I think that’s what makes this year so special is that it took all of us. We did it together from start to finish and we found a way to get things done. I think we’re only going to come back stronger.”