(Editor’s Note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – The Montana volleyball team grew by three on Wednesday, with Elsa Godwin, Sarina Moreno and Kelsey Nestegard joining the program.
“All three players have great attention to detail, which is what initially stood out to us,” head coach Allison Lawrence said. “All three want to be at Montana, and we’re really excited to welcome Elsa, Sarina and Kelsey into our program.”
Lawrence’s relationship with Godwin and Moreno goes back several years. The Missoula natives and soon-to-be graduates of Sentinel High School played club for the Montana Volleyball Academy. When Lawrence moved from Texas to Missoula in 2010 to become an assistant coach at Montana, she coached club at MVA on the side.
Two of the players she coached, then just 10 years old, were Godwin and Moreno.
“It’s not often you get to see your recruits at that age and get to know them to that level,” Lawrence said. “I feel very honored that they want to stay in their hometown and play in front of people they’ve played in front of since they were little. Those are the types of stories we love at Montana.”
Years after initially meeting Lawrence and becoming Missoula’s first 12-and-under team to qualify for nationals, the pair led Sentinel to three consecutive conference titles and back-to-back state championships. As a junior, Godwin was named Montana’s Gatorade Player of the Year, awarded to the state’s top player. Moreno, a libero, is a three-time all-state selection.
“Elsa was always very hard working, detail oriented, engaged and respectful,” Lawrence said of Godwin. “She was everything you wanted in a player, and I thought way back then that she would be someone we would look at here. She had ball control that was pretty advanced for her age and was coachable in ways that other girls her age weren’t. She showed the ability to jump and add pace to the ball, and she remains that player and has only added good things to who she was back then.
“Sarina hit and set and was very coordinated at a young age. She transitioned into a libero, but because she had played at such a high level since she was young, and at such a rigorous pace, she really developed into a good ball-control player.”
Lawrence’s relationship with Nestegard doesn’t go back as far, but it’s equally as strong. The two met this past July when Nestegard came to campus for Montana’s advanced camp.
There was an instant connection among both parties, but the Grizzlies’ roster was capped.
“What we saw in Kelsey was a kid with great character who was really coachable and had a high skill level,” Lawrence said. “She’s the type of player you want in your program, but we didn’t have room.”
Fast forward to this spring when a roster spot opened up and Nestegard still hadn’t made up her mind of where she would play. When she heard there was an opening, it was an easy decision.
“Ever since seventh grade I have wanted to go to the University of Montana,” the Pullman, Wash., native said. “I never thought I would get to go to my dream school and play volleyball there. One of the things that really stood out to me was when I saw how close all of the girls were, and the coaches too. I wanted to be part of that.”
Added Lawrence: “What was nice was that when she came to camp, both her and our staff had the same draw to each other. It just took a while to come together.”
In addition to the trio, Montana announced the additions of Olivia Bradley and Casey Stites in November. Stites is already enrolled on campus and has been training with the Griz this spring, while Bradley will join the program over the summer.
The Grizzlies are coming off of a three-win improvement during Lawrence’s first season as head coach and return nearly their entire roster from 2017, including 173 of 174 starts.
MORE ON GODWIN
HIGH SCHOOL: Will be a 2018 graduate of Sentinel High School in Missoula… Was a four-year letterwinner in volleyball, helping the Spartans to three conference titles and back-to-back state championships (2016 and 2017)… Was named Montana’s 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year… Earned three all-state honors and three first-team all-conference nods… Earned team MVP recognition as a junior and was named team captain as a senior… Played club volleyball for the Montana Volleyball Academy… Also lettered one year in track & field… Was a member of the National Honors Society and was named academic all-state all four years… Played with incoming Griz Sarina Moreno.
PERSONAL: Born in Missoula… Parents are Michael and Kirsten Godwin… Has an older sister, Lauren, and a younger brother, Clay… Uncle, Clay Crippen, was a golfer at New Mexico… Cousins Kelsie Crippen (Montana), Sadie Crippen (Montana) and Maggie Crippen (North Dakota State) also golfed collegiately… Undecided on a major but has interest in business, finance and journalism.
LAWRENCE ON GODWIN: “Elsa was recruited by other teams, good teams, in our conference. She’s extremely terminal, especially for her slight frame. Our hope is to get her in the weight room and get her physicality up a little bit to match the college game, and then take the ball-control skills that she already has.”
QUOTING GODWIN: “I chose the University of Montana for many reasons, the main ones being the exceptional coaching staff, staying local and having the opportunity to make a difference in my community. When I made my decision to commit to Montana, I knew I was going to become a part of a strong, determined and genuine program.”
MORE ON MORENO
HIGH SCHOOL: Will be a 2018 graduate of Sentinel High School in Missoula… Was a three-time all-state honoree… Helped the Spartans to three consecutive league titles and back-to-back state championships (2016 and 2017)… Played club volleyball for the Montana Volleyball Academy… Also lettered one year in track & field… Earned academic all-state accolades as a sophomore in 2016… Played with incoming Griz Elsa Godwin.
PERSONAL: Born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho… Hometown is Missoula, Mont. … Parents are Rick and Rebecca Moreno… Has an older sister, Meija, and a younger sister, Izzy… Undecided on a major.
LAWRENCE ON MORENO: “Sarina is a player who’s very smart and has good vision, and those things are hard to teach. When you see those skills they stand out in a big way, and they generally translate well from high school to college.”
QUOTING MORENO: “I chose the University of Montana because I love the coaching staff and it was the best-fit environment for me. I’m looking forward to staying local and finishing my volleyball career with a program that fits my personality and desires to make my perfect college experience.”
MORE ON NESTEGARD
HIGH SCHOOL: Will be a 2018 graduate of Pullman High School in Pullman, Wash. … Earned 2017 first-team all-state recognition, in addition to two first-team all-league honors… Named the GNL’s Most Valuable Player as a senior in 2017… Team captain and MVP in 2016 and 2017, helping the Greyhounds to back-to-back district and GNL titles… Advanced to the state tournament three times… Played club volleyball for PACV for eight seasons, and most recently for Club ZZU… Was a three-time academic all-league recipient… Earned 12 varsity letters in high school, including four in volleyball, four in basketball and four in track & field… Was an all-league selection in all three sports.
PERSONAL: Born in Bellevue, Wash. … Hometown is Pullman, Wash. … Parents are Joey and Kerry Nestegard… Has an older brother, Tyler, and a younger sister, Natalie… Undecided on a major.
LAWRENCE ON NESTEGARD: “What I love about Kelsey is that she’s very mature on the court. She’s not real flashy, but she’s hyper-competitive, down to business and has great attention to detail.”
QUOTING NESTEGARD: “I am most excited for the new experiences that playing at the next level will bring me. Also, to get to know my new teammates and to play volleyball at the next level. Everyone is so passionate about volleyball and about academics. The coaches and players are incredible and so focused on building the program. Growing up in Pullman and being exposed to college-level volleyball players as my club coaches, I understand the commitment it takes, and I am looking forward to the challenge.”