It started when coach Kandice (Kelly) Gregorak left the coaching staff at the University of Montana volleyball team to take over the North Idaho College Cardinals in February of 2011.
Thanks to a scrimmage in the spring, a pipeline between the two schools is growing stronger.
ON THAT visit, then-NIC sophomore Janele Vogt impressed the Montana coaching staff and ended up signing a letter of intent to play for the Grizzlies starting in the fall.
"She wanted to stay close to home," said Gregorak of Vogt's decision. "She liked their coaching style and the way they played."
Montana is coached by Jerry Wagner, who also coached Gregorak at Montana State in 2003 and 2004.
"He'd coached me and it's a great program," Gregorak said. "It's a great school, great administration and I can't speak highly enough of the program. They needed a middle and Janele fit the bill. It was a great place and she reached out to them, then we scrimmaged and she kicked butt and they wanted her."
FEELING LIKE she wasn't fitting in with the Montana program anymore, Kaitlyn Molloy was left looking for a new place to play.
"When I was still at Montana, I had a little bit to do with the recruiting," Gregorak said. "But she was only a sophomore. We were recruiting her and watching her, but she committed after I left. I l always told Jerry if something happens, you know who to call."
"He called me and I said, 'Are you kidding me?'" Gregorak said.
Upon coming to NIC, Molloy, a 5-foot-8 sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter, was reunited with sophomore setter Brooklyn Bradbury, with whom she played club volleyball for Lake Tapps Volleyball Club, based in Puyallup, Wash., while in high school.
“Kandice is a great coach,” Molloy said. “I really like what she did with the program last year and really thought I could fit in with the program. Brooklyn’s the best girl and I feel like we’ve got a really good connection on and off the court and I knew there was someone here, and the fact that Brooklyn was here made it a lot easier.”
“It worked out well,” Gregorak said. “Brooklyn’s family had a lot of good things to say about me and our program and style of play and thought that she could fit in really well.”
MOLLOY SAID that before coming to NIC, she’d never heard of Coeur d’Alene.
“I’d never been to Coeur d’Alene before coming here for school,” Molloy said. “I love it, but I wouldn’t have had any idea about it. I knew it was a big vacation spot, but never heard of it.”
Molloy added that the campus is a lot like that of UM.
“I really like the campus, and how it’s very small,” Molloy said. “I liked Missoula where you could walk from one end of the campus to the other. Here, my classes are in two different buildings and you can do the same thing.”
“It’s worked both ways,” Gregorak said. “We gave them one and we got one.”
In the future, Gregorak hopes to keep the pipeline going.
“I really hope so, and I’m mad I didn’t use NIC more when I was coaching there,” Gregorak said. “I didn’t know much about the JC world because I played in the Big Sky (Conference) and coached in the Big Sky. I definitely would have used it more when I was there and hope we can continue that in the future. If he (Wagner) doesn’t see that they’ll fit in, just like I’ll mention someone to him — hopefully that’s something we can keep.”
FOR GREGORAK, that connection with Griz athletics extends far beyond the volleyball court.
Earlier this summer, she married Ty Gregorak — the Grizzlies’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach — who played high school ball at West Valley. They met in Missoula while she was an assistant at Montana.
“Right now, I could make that drive with my eyes closed,” Kandice said. “We’re both really busy in our seasons and focused on our teams and winning ballgames. If I lived in Missoula right now, I wouldn’t see him anyway because those coaches are always working — and we are too. It’s great and we haven’t skipped a beat when we see each other either. We live on Skype, but it’s good. He keeps me updated on them and I know all of them (on the volleyball team) and they keep tabs on us. It’s a really good thing we’ve got going 2 1/2 hours away and I think the world of them and their program.”
Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.