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December 4, 2013, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – Trinity Western women’s basketball coach Cheryl Jean-Paul officially announced the signing of 6-foot post/wing Tessa Ratzlaff (Aldergrove, B.C.) of MEI Secondary Wednesday.

Ratzlaff, who graduates in 2014, will bring a big body presence to TWU and is a player who will immediately improve the Spartans both offensively and defensively.

“Tessa is the first signed athlete for this year’s class and it’s such a great way for our program to start,” Jean-Paul said. “She is an incredible athlete who plays with authority at both ends of the court. She’s a player who will make our program better the second that she steps onto the floor. She is used to playing an up-tempo style and she’s able to play through and enjoy the physical aspects of the game. She is great in full-court defense and she is a force on the boards.

“She is also such a great and humble person who fits in perfectly with where our program is heading. Keeping the culture that we are building strong has been a priority for our coaching staff and leaders and Tessa truly embodies what we are looking for in our Complete Champion Approach.”

As a Grade 11 student last year, Ratzlaff averaged a double-double throughout the season, collecting 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. She capped her season with an impressive performance at the 2013 BC AAA High School Girls Championship as she averaged 21 rebounds and 18 points over four games.

“As someone who has coached Tessa off and on since Grade 7, it has been a distinct pleasure to observe her develop into the dominant basketball player that she has become,” said MEI senior girl’s coach Rick Thiessen. “Tessa’s athleticism was obvious to anyone who saw her play any sport as a young girl. But once she focused on basketball and poured all of her energy into one sport, her skills really took off. As her skill set caught up with her natural athleticism, Tessa became a truly unique player who could take over a game on both ends of the court. Her pursuit of the ball as a rebounder is phenomenal but it is her ability to score in many different ways that has developed the most. It will be a pleasure to watch her continue to grow as a player and become a real force at the CIS level.”

As a Grade 10 student playing on the MEI junior team, Ratzlaff was also named MVP of the 2012 Fraser Valley Championship as she led her team to the tournament title.

“Tessa has been an impact player here since Grade 9 and has helped in re-establishing the legacy of girls’ basketball at MEI,” said Sam Hawkes (Hill), who is MEI’s junior girls’ coach and played for TWU’s women’s basketball team from 2002 to 2005. “She is a role model on and off the court and has great character and integrity. Tessa competes 100 per cent of the time. It has been an honor coaching Tessa. She is a fun-loving individual who has a contagious sense of humor. We will miss her athleticism, attitude and hustle here at MEI.”

While at MEI, Ratzlaff has been named athlete of the year in five of the last six years, including in both her Grade 10 and 11 years.

“It’s great to welcome another MEI athlete onto our roster,” Jean-Paul said. “Senior girls’ coach Rick Thiessen and junior girls’ coach Sam Hawkes have done a great job in rebuilding their basketball programs and our program has benefited several times over the years and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.”

Most recently, Ratzlaff put up 26 points and nabbed eight rebounds in helping MEI to an 84-67 win over Riverside at the 2013 Tsumura Basketball Invitational, which was played on TWU’s home court at the Langley Events Centre.

“I have heard so many positive words about TWU and it had so much to offer me, both athletically and academically,” said Ratzlaff, who plans to study communications and media. “The basketball team was so welcoming and they show so much love for each other as a team. They work so hard on the court and have so much potential as a team.”

Ratzlaff is the younger sister of Marissa Verhoeff (Ratzlaff), who was a member of both the Spartans women’s soccer and cross country teams. Ratzlaff is also the brother-in-law of former men’s basketball player Lance Verhoeff.