Polar Bear alum returns to coach
Ratka will lead girls’ basketball team
By Scott Bellile
A former Hortonville basketball star will head the powerhouse girls’ team this winter.
Class of 2006 alumna Celeste (Hoewisch) Ratka, daughter of Dean and Donna Hoewisch, was picked by Hortonville Area School District Aug. 22 to succeed Jeff Chew as the varsity girls’ basketball head coach.
The job opening came when Jeff Chew resigned in August for reasons he declined to share. Over the last five years, he had turned Hortonville around from a team that struggled to find wins in the Bay Conference to a recipient of two Fox Valley Association titles and three regional titles.
“I’m no stranger to having expectations,” Ratka said of taking over the FVA force. “With my time playing at [University of Wisconsin-]Green Bay, we were expected to win a lot, and the thing I learned about that is you can’t get caught up in wins and losses. You need to focus on the execution and giving your best.
“I just want to get in there and teach these girls how to work and how to seek excellence in every aspect of their lives, and I feel the results will take care of themselves,” Ratka said.
Seven people applied for the coaching position, according to Andy Kolosso, Hortonville High School athletic director. He said Ratka was chosen for her “unbelievable” knowledge of the game gained through playing at UWGB and in Europe, and her familiarity with the town was a plus.
“Anybody associated with Hortonville Area School District girls’ basketball knows who Celeste is. That’s another bonus with her,” Kolosso said. “Without a doubt she’s the most qualified person we had that applied.”
When she played high school ball in the now-dissolved Valley 8 Conference, Ratka earned the honor of Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, frequently led the Hortonville Polar Bears’ scoring on the court and helped the team land a conference title her senior year.
She earned three First Team All-Conference distinctions in basketball, volleyball and softball. She additionally earned Third Team All-State in basketball her senior year, averaging 18 points and seven rebounds per game. That year she also earned All-State Honorable Mention in volleyball and softball.
Ratka played Division 1 basketball on a scholarship at UWGB while studying human biology. From 2008-’11, she racked up 1,425 points and set a university record for most games played, 132.
Among her many accomplishments in the Horizon League, she was named Co-Player of the Year, Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Tournament MVP and twice First Team All-Conference. Her team qualified for the NCAA tournament all four years.
After graduation, Ratka played basketball for a year overseas for LKS Lodz Club in Poland and the Solna Vikings in Sweden.
From 2012-’15, she worked as a video coordinator for the girls’ basketball team at the University of Illinois under her former UWGB coach, Matt Bollant. She said the job gave her insights on team management that playing the game alone doesn’t provide.
Since then, she’s been a stay-at-home mom raising her 1-year-old. She said she’s eager to move from Germantown to the Fox Valley with her husband Aaron, HHS Class of 2003, and return to basketball.
“It’s literally been a part of my life from day one, so I was missing it extremely, I mean a lot, being a part of something,” Ratka said. “I wanted to give back, and what an awesome way to do that in your hometown at your alma mater. And it makes it extremely special to begin this journey back where it all began for me.”
New to Ratka is the FVA, a conference where the schools are larger and tougher than her days in the Valley 8. She said she looks forward to learning what the rival teams are, which changed since her days of battling Fox Valley Lutheran and Xavier.
Her father, Dean Hoewisch, said he’s joining his daughter’s coaching staff this year. He said he looks forward to continuing learning the game beside her, and he and Ratka’s mother Donna are very proud of her.
“She’s very deserving of this,” Hoewisch said of his daughter. “All I know is Hortonville is going to be getting an awesome coach.”