On Wednesday, the most decorated volleyball player in Our Redeemer's Christian School history also became the first to sign with an NCAA Division II school.
All-state outside hitter Ashley Koppinger, the 2012 Minot Daily News all-area player of the year, inked a letter of intent to continue her career at the University of Mary in Bismarck.
"It was the last school I toured ... and when I stepped on the campus I just felt like I needed to go there," said Koppinger, who led the Knights to a fifth-place finish at the 2012 Class B state tournament. "It felt welcoming and it's not far from home but it's far enough."
Koppinger also considered Jamestown College, the University of North Dakota and Minot State University.
"She's been heavily recruited from different areas and just to see her go at this level is great," said Sherry Carlson, who started the ORCS volleyball program in 1996 and resigned from the head coaching position this spring. "We've probably had 11 girls play college ball, but none at this level so this is exciting for us."
Koppinger - a 5-foot-7 bundle of quick-twitch muscles - can spring quickly off the floor for powerful spikes, but is also short and quick enough to be a dominant back row defender. She expects to play rotations in both rows at Mary.
"Everybody sees the vertical (leap)," Carlson said. "That is a really great asset, but I think her quickness is everything. She's quick in the back row, she's quick in her approach and I think (Mary) will be able to use that."
After being a five-year starter at ORCS, Koppinger will confront a significant jump in competition level. Mary is part of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, arguably the top Division II volleyball conference in the country. Three NSIC programs were ranked in the top six in last season's final American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll.
Koppinger said she doesn't expect to start immediately but hopes to earn regular playing time by the end of her freshman season.
"I want to try to see what I can do with my abilities and see how far I can go," she said.
Wallette signs with MSU
Turtle Mountain forward Whitney Wallette signed with the MSU women's basketball team Wednesday, bringing the Beavers' 2013 recruiting class to two players. Montana guard Diondra Denton joined MSU during the early signing period.
Wallette, a Class A second-team all-state selection, averaged 18.5 points and 10.2 rebounds during her senior season.
"I feel good to know that I'm committed there now," Wallette said. "I just feel that I made the right choice."
MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding said the 6-foot Wallette, primarily a post player in high school, has the versatility and shooting ability to play the wing for the Beavers.
"She's got some work to do going from high school to college and learning how to play that level and that intensity and that speed," Green Gerding said. "We have hopes of playing Whitney as a '3' rather than a true post player. I think she has that ability."
Green Gerding said she hopes to sign at least two, and possibly three, junior college players for next season.
"We need another pure shooter - someone that can just flat-out stroke it from deep - and then a playmaker," she said. "Whether it's a point guard or an off-guard, somebody that can create for others and herself."
Wallette, a member of the Turtle Mountain National Honor Society, plans to study sports medicine at MSU.