Senior Spotlight: Ambridge libero gets jump-start into workforce

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020 | 1:15 PM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

When schools closed in March as part of the coronavirus pandemic response, Kevan Rotthoff’s education shifted, like thousands of others, to online learning.

It also opened the opportunity for him to hold a full-time job at Cassidy Construction in Ambridge.

The Ambridge senior has been pretty busy over the past couple of months.

But Rotthoff said he wishes he could’ve been busy with his Bridgers boys volleyball teammates, including fellow seniors Liam Buck, Josh Meyer and David Stuebgen, in an attempt to capture another WPIAL Class AA title and make a run at a state championship.

The libero said the team saw its potential in a March 11 scrimmage against Bethel Park and Seneca Valley.

“We played really well, and we got so excited for the season,” Rotthoff said. “Then it was just cut off so quickly. I would’ve played through July if we were given the chance.”

Ambridge won its second straight WPIAL Class AA crown in 2019 as it beat Seton LaSalle in the finals. It was the Bridgers’ ninth WPIAL title in the past 13 years and 10th overall.

The season came to an end with a four-set loss District 10’s Meadville in the state semifinals.

For his efforts, Rotthoff, who also played club volleyball for Beaver Valley Premier, earned all-section and All-WPIAL honors and was recognized on the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AA all-state team for the first time.

Rotthoff graduates from Ambridge on June 5 in a recognition ceremony set to stream on the district’s YouTube channel. He plans to work for Cassidy Construction until October when he begins classes toward a welding degree at Rosedale Tech in Kennedy Township.

What is it like to have been a part of the Ambridge boys volleyball program with all of its tradition?

It’s such an honor to play for a program like this with all the success it’s had. With coach (Glenn) Freed at the head of it, he’s done an awesome job. He’s probably one of my greatest coaches. He expects nothing but the best from his players. It’s an honor to be with him for club and from junior high to high school.

How tough was it to be so close to the state finals last year?

It was a punch to the gut to come so close and lose like that. Looking back, I am happy we made it that far. That’s what made us so excited for this year, getting another shot at a state title. We were proud of how far we went, but we weren’t content.

What stands out about the 2019 season?

I think it was the way we all came together. We were missing a couple of pieces, but we gained (6-foot-5 middle hitter) Aaron Hilzendeger. He came back after playing in junior high. He said it was like riding a bike. We all worked together and pushed forward. We just kept going.

Describe the feeling of being named to the all-state team after the 2019 season? Are those type of honors something you think about?

It was such an honor to be up on that list with all of those names, the best in the state. It was pretty cool. But my main focus definitely was with the team and winning tournaments and going for WPIAL and state titles.

What is your best overall memory of playing volleyball at Ambridge?

All of it, really. Winning WPIALs twice was pretty cool, coming back and beating Derry (in 2018) after being down 2-0 and then beating Seton LaSalle (2019) the first time they had ever been in the WPIAL championship (match). I liked the grind of everything and working hard to get to our goals, going to practice every day to get better.

What is your best overall memory as a sports fan?

Watching the Penguins win the Stanley Cup two years in a row (2016 and 2017) was pretty cool. I’ve always been a fan, and it was awesome to see how much work they put in and how much focus they needed to get both. I was only 6 or 7 when they won it in 2009, so I had a better appreciation for it this time around.

I also went to my first ever Steelers game (win over the Los Angeles Rams) this past fall. That was awesome to be at Heinz Field for that one. The atmosphere was amazing.

What led you to pursue welding at Rosedale Tech?

I wanted to do a trade. I had my mind set on that. (Ambridge) had a welding program set up through Sippel Steel in Ambridge. That really piqued my interest. I wanted to learn more about it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out because of the covid-19 stuff. But I contacted Rosedale, and I found out a lot about the program. I just ran with it from there. It’s just the best fit for me.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I love fly fishing in creeks and lakes, mostly during the summer. I like to go to Canadohta Lake north of Meadville. That’s where we normally vacation with my family each year. I’ll also just drive up there. It’s not too far. I also like to fish at North Park.

What is the genesis for your love of fly fishing?

My dad bought a fly rod from Field and Stream in Cranberry a couple of years ago, and he took it up to the lake. I saw it and I was like, ‘Heck I’ll use it because no one else was using it.’ I started catching fish. It was a different and fun way to catch them. It took off from there.

Have you binge watched any shows during the stay-at-home orders over the past couple of months?

I watched “The Office,” a show on the History Channel called “Vikings,” and I re-watched the whole “Game of Thrones” series. Those three I’ve watched a bunch.

If you could have anyone speak at a commencement ceremony, who would it be?

Martin Luther King, Jr. He knew a lot more than I will ever know. He would have an important message and a lot of knowledge to share.

If you were asked to give a commencement speech, what advice would you give?

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Be willing to learn a variety of things. Listen to people and learn as much as you can. You could help other people with that knowledge you gain. Also, just put your head down and work because it’s worth it. Try your best.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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