HELENA — Helena native Paige Bartsch is currently in her junior season playing volleyball at Boise State and has become a recognizable athlete in this part of the country.
“What I chose Boise for was the coaching staff.” Bartsch told MTN Sports. “There were other schools putting some pressure on me, asking me to commit and I just didn’t feel like I knew yet, obviously.
"I was like 16 or 15 years old, so, I felt a little nervous about that but my coaches here were saying, 'Take your time, this is a big decision.'"
Bartsch's twin sister Dani, who also had to make that big decision, is currently preparing for another basketball season with the Montana Lady Griz. Paige always knew she wanted to go somewhere other than the Big Sky Conference.
“It’s pretty cool for me. It’s also a great opportunity, I like that (Dani) plays a different sport than me, because I feel like that’s pretty rare," Paige said.
During her time in Idaho, Paige has noticed that many of her teammates and fellow student-athletes only focused on playing one individual sport growing up.
“I think that’s something unique about Montana, a lot of athletes are doing three sports. Obviously as twins we did everything together but it’s kind of nice. It’s something new for us to be going our different ways, but we are still really close,” Paige said.
“I think to be at this level you have to be a very competitive person, which is exactly what Dani and I are. Growing up we were very competitive against each other.
“It resulted in a little aggression sometimes, but I think it helped us be the athletes we are today and obviously we have matured a little bit since high school, so we get along very well now but it was always a blast being able to go to practice with her (and) games. It’s kind of nice having a built-in friend everywhere you go."
When Bartsch first arrived at Boise State for a visit, she fell in love with the campus as well as the volleyball program. But she said she wanted to utilize her four years of college somewhere other than in her own backyard.
“I miss the scenery, honestly people say there are mountains here but, I think they're just a little bit (of) hills. I think leaving has really helped me appreciate (Montana),” Bartsch said.
“I love Montana, I’ll end up back in Montana. If you ask anybody here, Montana is like my personality. My family is all in Montana, the summers have never disappointed me once, (but) everybody close to me is in Helena.”
Though the former Montana Gatorade player of the year is no stranger to awards — individual and team alike — Bartsch has racked up plenty of honors in her Boise State career such as All-Mountain West accolades, a preseason player of the year nod, MW freshmen of the year honors, MW all-tournament team kudos, MW scholar-athlete awards, and had tallied 420 kills in her first two years as a Bronco.
However, she knows that there are always things to improve upon.
“Heading into my senior year, I don’t want to get complacent with the level I’m playing at, I want to keep getting better, keep doing as much as I can for my team. There’s always something to work on and my coach will help me find it,” she said.
Boise State coach Shawn Garus is in his 14th season at the helm, and holds an overall record of 245-173 (.586).
“He’s talking about seeing each opponent the same and understanding that everybody is a threat. We need to go in with that mentality that everyone has it out for us and we need to hold ourselves to a high standard," says Bartsch.
“If I make a mistake, (I) kind of have it wash over, because I tend to kind of sulk in those a little bit sometimes, so (I'm) always working on that.”
All of the accolades won't change the love she has for her hometown,
"My family is the huge, huge support system, all my cousins, all of my aunts and uncles live around the (Helena) area. Now that I'm in Boise, it's a little farther away but my parents have come to every home game this year. My friends come, my sisters come when they can. Having my family at my games, it's always nice to know that they're watching. Family support is huge for me," declared Bartsch.
Boise State will face San Jose State at home this Saturday before hitting the road for the final matches of the resular season against Nevada and Fresno State. The first round of the Mountain West championships begin Nov. 22 in Las Vegas.