(Editor’s Note: Story by Griz communications)
MISSOULA – The Montana volleyball team has been making strides each of the past two years under head coach Allison Lawrence, and a big piece of keeping that momentum moving forward arrived this week, when five players officially joined the program.
Joining the Grizzlies next fall will be Lexie Gleasman (OH), Amethyst Harper (OH), Kelly Horning (MB), Isabel List (OPP) and Catie Semadeni (OH).
“We’re really excited for this group to join our program,” Lawrence said. “We wanted athletes who love the grind, athletes who know exactly where this program is and where it needs to be, and want to be part of it because they know that challenges pull the best out of them.”
The group has a heavy emphasis on attackers, with three left sides, a right side and a powerful middle blocker joining the team. The focus was intentional, with Montana graduating three pin hitters.
“We knew that we needed athletes who could come in and at least fight to contribute right away,” Lawrence said. “We wanted hitters who not only had a wide range of strengths offensively, but then also could contribute in the back row and pass and play defense as well.”
Montana will graduate six players this fall after having zero seniors a year ago. While the six is a large number, Lawrence said that last year’s lack of senior class allowed her and her staff to really foster relationships with this week’s signees, in addition to future classes.
“We weren’t scrambling last year,” the second-year head coach said. “We were able to take our time and focus on building relationships and being with them for a longer period of time.”
Below is a look at Montana’s newest members:
Position: Outside Hitter
Hometown: Chelan, Wash.
High School: Chelan H.S.
Lexie Gleasman wasn’t just a multi-sport athlete in high school, but more of an all-sport athlete. In addition to earning four letters in volleyball – and being named the 2018 Caribou Trail League Player of the Year in Chelan, Wash. – Gleasman earned all-state honors in basketball last winter and all-league recognition in softball. Her versatility is one of the things that drew Lawrence to the prep star.
“It’s hard to stay committed to playing multiple sports, especially with how club volleyball takes over, but I think the fact that she’s stuck with it has benefited her,” Lawrence said. “She brings a lot in terms of leadership and knowing her roles on different teams.”
More than her versatility and leadership, though, Gleasman has talent on the volleyball court, helping her team to three consecutive top-eight finishes at state.
“She’s got size, she’s got an arm, and what I love about her is where she came from,” Lawrence said. “She has a different background that will provide a different type of voice and leadership for our team.”
High School: Will be a 2019 graduate of Chelan High School… Was named the 2018 Caribou Trail League Player of the Year… Earned all-league honors every season, including first-team recognition three times… Two-time captain… As a senior in 2018, won a Caribou Trail League title… Helped the Mountain Goats to back-to-back top-eight finishes at state, including a semifinals appearance in 2017… Also lettered every year in both basketball and softball… Was a two-time captain on her basketball team, earning all-state honors in 2018… First-team all-league in softball in 2018… Head volleyball coach was Jenifer Rainville… Played club volleyball for College Preparatory Academy and Kahaiu VBC.
Personal: Born and raised in Chelan, Wash. … Parents are Randy and Lisa Gleasman… Has two older siblings, Lucas and Katie, and a younger brother, Gunner… Lucas plays football at Carroll College in Montana while Katie plays softball at Centralia Community College… Intends to major in biology.
Position: Outside Hitter
Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
High School: Central H.S.
Most volleyball players will play for their high school and club team, which takes up the majority of their free time. For Amethyst Harper, she’ll find any other way to get more volleyball reps in.
“She lives Fresno, which has a great volleyball community,” Lawrence said. “She plays year round, whether in a gym or finding grass tournaments or sand competitions. What she wants to do is play volleyball.”
It’s a mindset that Lawrence hopes will elevate the bar for the entire team, helping each player get better and learning how to give more.
In addition to her determination, Harper also has a wide skillset that will be a nice addition to the Griz roster.
“Amethyst stands out as an all-around great volleyball player,” Lawrence said. “She has every skill – she’s a great server, she’s a great passer, she’s a great defender, she could play libero for a lot of teams in the country. She has good size, she can jump and she can hit with good ball control.”
High School: Will be a 2019 graduate of Central High School in Fresno… Previously attended Hoover High School (2015-17), where she earned first-team all-league honors each year and was her team’s captain and MVP each season… Helped Hoover to three league championships and a 2017 CIF Central Section Valley title… Also earned four varsity letters in track & field and two in soccer… Head volleyball coach was Randy Burriss… Played club volleyball for the Patriots, Pac-Pre and Pacific Coast… Two-time Student-Athlete of the Year… Member of the honor roll each semester.
Personal: Hometown is Fresno, Calif. … Parents are Rebecca Richey and Darren Harper… Has two older brothers, Jermaine and Dempsy, and two older sisters, Ashley and Lisa.
Position: Middle Blocker
Hometown: Post Falls, Idaho
High School: Coeur d’Alene H.S.
Despite being raised in Idaho, you could say Kelly Horning is a Montana lifer. After all, her mother, the former Kate Faha, played for the Griz, helping Montana to its first-ever Big Sky championship and NCAA tournament appearance in the early 1990s. It’s one of the reasons why Horning has been coming to Montana volleyball camps since a young age.
“It’s been special with Kelly and the history of her mom, but more than that, we wanted Kelly because we wanted Kelly.”
What comes with that is a powerful arm and an unyielding determination that led to four all-league honors at Coeur d’Alene High School.
“You watch her play and you get the sense that she’s going to do whatever it takes to get a point for her and her teammates,” Lawrence said. “She automatically lifts people up, no matter what her role is, which is infectious and something we need on our team. She’s very powerful and strong, so when she connects, she hits it hard and she’s relentless. It’s a deadly combo, and it’s an attitude you have to have as a middle.”
High School: Will be a 2019 graduate of Coeur d’Alene High School… Earned All-Empire League honors four times, in addition to being the league’s Freshman of the Year in 2015… Team captain as a senior in 2018… Finished in the top five at the Montana 5A state tournament twice (2015 and 2018), and won an Empire League championship as a freshman in 2015… Has also earned three letters in both basketball and track & field, earning all-league recognition as a sophomore in basketball… Head volleyball coaches were Dee Pottenger and Carly Curtis… Played club volleyball for the Renovators Volleyball Club (RVC).
Personal: Born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho… Hometown is nearby Post Falls… Parents are Loren and Kate Horning… Mother (Kate Faha) played volleyball at Montana from 1989-91, and was part of the school’s first conference championship and NCAA tournament appearances… Has two younger brothers, Alex and Lars.
Position: Opposite Hitter
Hometown: Wasilla, Alaska
High School: Mat-Su Career and Technical H.S.
Isabel List is unique in the fact that she’s from Alaska, just the fourth player ever to hail from that state. She’s also left handed, making her a natural right-side hitter.
“Seeing what an effective right-side has done for our offense this year, we knew we wanted to find someone who could assume that role,” Lawrence said. “Isabel is a natural for the right side, and she has setting background, so she really understands the position.
Lawrence also likes that List’s home state is a bit off the radar, and volleyball in Alaska is a bit different than it is in the lower 48. She also loves the back country, making her a perfect fit for the state of Montana.
“I think she has untapped potential,” Lawrence said. “She has size, she has speed and she doesn’t even know how good she is. I love that she’s quiet and determined, and an excellent student who will broaden our team on and off the court.”
High School: Will be a 2019 graduate of Mat-Su Career and Technical H.S. in Wasilla, Alaska… Named the 2018 Northern Lights Conference MVP… Earned two all-conference selections and two all-tournament team honors… Helped the Knights to back-to-back regional championships (2017 and 2018)… Team captain as a senior… Also earned one varsity letter in track & field… Head volleyball coach was Steve Reynolds… Played club volleyball for ACE Volleyball.
Personal: Born in Anchorage, Alaska… Hometown is Wasilla… Parents are Karen Mcnaught and Oliver List.
Position: Outside Hitter
Hometown: Fort Collins, Colo.
High School: Fossil Ridge H.S.
Before Lawrence had even watched much of what Catie Semadeni could do on the volleyball court, she already knew she wanted the Fort Collins native to be a Grizzly.
“She was such a joy to get to know, that right away you were drawn to the person she is,” Lawrence said. “She was the glue of her teams and naturally brings out the best in people.”
Of course, personality won’t earn you a scholarship alone, but it did help. It also helped that she’s an excellent volleyball player – three times earning all-league honors – and was on a team that is used to winning – Fossil Ridge won three consecutive conference championships, in addition to a Colorado 5A state title.
“She has incredible power, she has good size and she’s very terminal on the left side,” Lawrence said. “Her ability to terminate against some of the best club teams in the country really made her a no-brainer for us. She has all of the intangibles and then she has potential that I don’t think she’s even tapped into.”
High School: Will be a 2019 graduate of Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colo. … Earned three first-team All-Front Range League honors, while also being named to the all-state second team in 2016… Team captain as a junior and senior… Helped the Sabercats to three consecutive conference titles, in addition to a Colorado state 5A championship in 2016… Head volleyball coach was Paul Shimek… Played club volleyball for the Diff Volleyball Club… Has earned two academic letters and has been a member of the Dean’s List each semester… Awarded the CHAMP Player of the Month (November 2018) for heart and sportsmanship.
Personal: Born and raised in Fort Collins, Colo. … Parents are Randy and Sharrie Semadeni… Has two older brothers, Alex and Andrew… Alex played basketball at Fort Lewis College… Andrew plays basketball at Morningside College.
Departing the Griz will be six seniors, including the team’s top three outside hitters. Back, though are two true freshman starters, in addition to the team’s setter and additional attackers. Montana’s nine wins this season are the most since 2013. The Grizzlies can earn a berth to the Big Sky Championship with one win or one Southern Utah loss this week.