By Jeanne Sager
FALLSBURG November 7, 2003 Most girls would be happy to reach a height of 5 feet 7 3/4 inches.
Not Rachel Feller.
That 1/4 of an inch shy of 5 foot 8 might be the difference between living her dreams and ending her volleyball career.
Feller is a junior at Fallsburg High School, but shes already got her eyes on college.
She wants to join the volleyball team at a Division I school, preferably SUNY Albany or Penn State, and she wants to earn a teaching degree.
Her biggest worry?
Usually 5 foot 8 inches is the shortest theyll go with girls, Im hoping that quarter of an inch wont matter, she said.
In fact, Feller isnt quite sure where shed turn tomorrow if there was no more volleyball.
I wouldnt do any other sports, Feller said with a pensive look. I really dont know what Id do.
An athletic kid from the start, Feller started with CYO basketball when she was a third grader in Red Hook. She later played t-ball and swung her bat on the Little League field.
But it wasnt until she hit seventh grade and joined the volleyball team with a friend that the tall blonde found her niche.
It was fun, she recalled. Finally it was something I could do, that I was good at.
I like the competition, Feller explained. I like being able to slam the ball down in someones face.
Feller plays all of the positions on the court, but she excels as an outside hitter, where she gets what she calls the rush of the game.
It is, of course, a team sport, which Feller enjoys.
If you dont have a team, you cant play, she explained. Whereas in basketball, there is such thing as a ballhog.
It was that theory, coupled with her daughters love for the game, that sent Anne Kaplan to coaching classes.
Feller had a few bad experiences at Whoosh, a summer league for volleyball players.
So her mom decided to start her own team, bringing girls around Fellers age in the area to play together in the offseason.
The Central Falls Volleyball Club travels across the region to tournaments and practices when the school team is off.
That influence and support from her mom has been a guide in Fellers life.
Kaplan coached the basketball and t-ball teams when Feller was young as well, and the teen remembers quitting because she wasnt so sure she liked having her mom as the coach.
But she says shes matured, and she appreciates the effort it takes to become a coach.
Shes trying to do something nice, Feller said. She knows Im really into it, and she cant play, but shes a good coach.
Kaplan was also convinced this year to let Feller try out for the Fallsburg cheerleading squad Fellers older sisters had bad experiences cheering at another school district, so it took some convincing.
Feller will start that up in a few weeks when basketball gets under way, and she will work to fit in her studies and time on the court.
When volleyball season ends, the offseason begins, she said. Sometimes its hard to keep up with school, but I try to get my homework done before games, while JV is playing.
My goal is to try to be on the honor roll every marking period, she added, or the superintendents list.
Thats an honor she earned last year (report cards havent yet been issued this year, so she doesnt know where she stands).
Feller has also earned awards on the court in eighth grade she was honored for sportsmanship, and in ninth and 10th grades, she was named the volleyball teams MVP.
And right now, shes concentrating on making her way to the future, and hopefully keeping volleyball a constant in her life.
Name: Rachel Feller
School and grade: Fallsburg Central School, 11th grade.
Parents: Anne and Phil Kaplan
Favorite sport: Volleyball
Favorite school subject: Spanish
Future plans: Feller hopes to attend a Division I college to pursue a teaching degree, while playing on the volleyball team.