Passion for the game of volleyball and toughness as players will be the mark of the team that first year coach Scott Keister has assembled to take the court for Northwest College volleyball this …
Passion for the game of volleyball and toughness as players will be the mark of the team that first year coach Scott Keister has assembled to take the court for Northwest College volleyball this fall.
In a whirlwind 3 1/2 months since Keister arrived to take the reins, he has all but completed recruiting for his first Lady Trapper team. He has 10 new players who will join forces with five returnees on an avowed mission to return NWC to a place among the premiere junior college volleyball programs in the nation.
Recruiting success was scored despite the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down the college campus and restricted travel.
“I feel really good about where we are right now with our fall roster,” Keister said. “The 10 commitments are all from really special kids who bring not just talent, but a work ethic, passion and toughness that this program has been missing for a couple of years.”
Four newly added players complete the picture for Keister. He announced six initial recruits at the end of February.
“I am probably looking for one more player to fill us out, but we could be OK with what we have now,” he said.
Green Canyon to Wyoming
The latest include two players from the same high school (Green Canyon) in North Logan, Utah. They are Shante Falslev and Jacie Walker.
It turns out they’re just two-thirds of the Green Canyon package. They join Sabree Adams to make a threesome from the 2020 Utah State 4-A championship team; Adams was one of Keister’s first signings in February.
“Jacie is a setter and right side hitter; Sabree is a middle; and Shante is an outside hitter. The instant connection that those three bring to our program is priceless,” Keister said.
And if the name Shante Falslev sounds familiar, it should: She has already signed to play Lady Trapper basketball for Cam Levett, and will be starting a multi-sport career next fall at NWC.
Being a dual sport athlete at the college level “has its challenges, for sure,” Keister said.
“Usually you find that the ones who have the talent to do it and want to do it are very tough mentally,” he added. “It is perhaps more difficult on the academic side. We make sure they are good students to start with and then monitor them closely throughout both seasons.”
Falslev is an outside hitter who was named the Most Valuable Player in Green Canyon’s run to the title. Keister said Falslev is a hard worker “and just loves to compete.”
Walker is a setter and right side hitter. Keister said she is extremely smart, a well-rounded player with great court sense and a killer serve.
She is a 4.0 student and was an academic all state selection in Utah, chosen for the Female Athlete of the Year Pride of the Pack Award at Green Canyon High School, he added.
“I coached her older sister, Alyssa, at Salt Lake Community College, and she was a fantastic player, leader and teammate. I expect nothing less from Jacie,” he said.
More new recruits
Another new recruit, Paige Weimer, is a libero from Shelley, Idaho, and also played for Club V in the Salt Lake area.
“I first saw Paige when I went to see previously committed Trapper Kiah Johnson at her club. Paige immediately stood out above the rest with her unceasing tenacity. She scrapped and clawed to get to every ball and did it with an expression of pure joy on her face,” Keister related. “She was doing things that most liberos struggle to do. She knows what sacrifice means, as she traveled from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake three times a week to play club volleyball and managed to keep up her grades during that time. She brings a passion and a fire for the game that I love to see in that position.”
Sayler Larson is a walk-on from Bountiful, Utah.
“I have known Sayler for almost three years,” Keister said. “I first met her as a 16-year-old playing on my club team at Hive Volleyball Club in Farmington, Utah, just north of Salt Lake. I was very impressed with how she matured and how coachable she was. Sayler will bring a strong work ethic and will thrive being surrounded by a team of players who will push her every day.”
Commitments from Falslev, Walker and Weimer all came after the shutdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Keister had high praise for NWC officials who helped with recruiting “virtually.”
“We worked as a staff to put together virtual tours and video walking tours of the campus and the community so they could see the incredible community and college we have here,” Keister said.
He offered a “huge shout-out” to Kendle Jeffs in the admissions department and her entire team for helping communicate with the incoming freshmen.
“She and her team have been incredible as we are going through this very strange time,” he added.
Six commit early
Keister got off to a strong start in the recruiting wars almost as he settled into his office in Cabre Gym the first week of January. He constructed a recruiting board on his office wall with targeted athletes and went to work.
Keister drew on contacts in Utah and the immediate region, where he served the last seven years as assistant volleyball coach at Salt Lake Community College.
First to commit was Green Canyon’s Adams from Logan, Utah. By the end of February he had also signed right side hitter Johnson from Morgan, Utah; outside hitter Baylee Peterson from Rexburg, Idaho (with family in Powell); Rocky Mountain High School’s Aubrianne Crosby from Cowley, a libero; outside hitter Emma Teichert of Cokeville; and outside hitter Karli Steiner of Billings.
Five returnees on board
Keister welcomes back five carryover players from the 2019 Lady Trapper volleyball team, who have decided to stay on under his system.
“Over the first three months that I was with them, until COVID forced us apart, I was able to use that time to evaluate, test and decide if they were in fact student-athletes that I wanted and felt could help our program,” he said. “This is always a tough one when a coaching change happens. There is stress on the athlete’s part because they don’t know if they will like or agree with the new coach. It’s stressful on the new coach because they are athletes that the new coach didn’t recruit.”
With the dust settled, Keister said he feels good about the five returnees.
They include Ryan Blaylock, a libero/defensive specialist from Cody; Natalie Ostermiller, libero/defensive specialist from Powell; Devon Curtis, middle from Powell; Kaylie Critchfield, setter from Evanston; and Mollee Krum, middle from Worden, Montana, who was an All-Region 9 selection last fall. Keister has moved Ostermiller to libero from setter, where she played last season.
Of the five, he said, “They are hungry for change and hungry to win. Each of them has shown resolve and tenacity with the new way of life in the volleyball program.”
‘Can’t wait’ for August
Keister senses the 15 players have toughness and passion that he seeks.
“The ability to get in the gym and grind through the rigors of the season is a tough thing to teach,” he said. “It takes a special kid to have that in them naturally. Each one of our recruits, along with the five selected returners, have demonstrated the ability to do that,” he said.
The new coach said he has also stressed being good community role models and good students.
“Chemistry beats talent most of the time so it’s a delicate thing to put together a group of 15 young ladies who can work cohesively together, but more importantly, be mature enough to work through the inevitable rough patches,” Keister said. “It’s an exciting time for our program, and we can’t wait to get to August and be on the court, building the legacy of this program back to where it should be — among the nation’s top programs.”