COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho College sophomore outside hitter Halle Hess fell in love with Coeur d’Alene a long time ago.
But that’s not the only love in her life.
NIC will enter this week’s Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball tournament as the top seed from the East Region, where the team only lost once in 16 matches this season.
“We’ve got a lot of raw competitiveness, and it works really well,” Hess said. “The flow of the team comes together really well. We love one another, and play with a lot of heart.”
Speaking of heart — as it were — Hess plans to get married next month, in addition to continuing to pursue a degree in nursing.
“He’s from my hometown in Shelley,” Hess said of her fiancé. “If an opportunity in volleyball doesn’t open up, I’m just going to continue my degree in nursing somewhere.”
Getting to Coeur d’Alene was something of a late decision, Hess said.
“It was kind of a last-minute decision,” said Hess, who played at Bonneville High in Idaho Falls. “I loved the Coeur d’Alene area, and the offer was too hard to pass up. I loved the coaches and teammates, so it was a really good fit all around.”
Hess added a few NWAC schools, as well as NJCAA schools showed interest, but none to the level of NIC.
“I had a few offers here and there,” Hess said. “But NIC was my by-far favorite. I was talking to CSI (College of Southern Idaho) for a few weeks. Laramie County in Wyoming offered me a full scholarship, but it wasn’t NIC.”
NIC (31-6) opens the NWAC tournament on Thursday against Shoreline (14-21) at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center.
“If we can put our heads to the grind, we’re going to be tough to beat this year,” Hess said. “We’re doing some unbelievable things. And it’s only going to get better. The team chemistry is a lot more compatible. As a team, we just need to focus one game at a time.”
Something that Hess added she’s handled a lot better this year compared to last.
“I’ve gotten a lot more mentality strong this year,” Hess said. “I’m not the new freshman getting into something I’m not used to doing.”
PRESS: What is your favorite movie?
HESS: “Nacho Libre with Jack Black. It’s a cheesy, classic movie.”
What is your pre-match ritual?
HESS: “We all listen to music in the locker room. And we have dance competitions. It really gets us warmed up, focused and ready to play — somehow. Somehow it does. I think it takes the stress off of the match.”
Any particular music to dance to?
HESS: “Not necessarily. We just have fun together, get loose, and get excited.”
What is the benefit of going to school with a beach nearby?
HESS: “It’s so easy to go out and lay on the beach and read a book or do my homework. And just relax. It’s a good place to focus for me. And I love being on the water. Always have.”
Do you water ski or jet ski?
HESS: “I’ve been a competitive swimmer for the last 10 years,” Hess said. “I’ve always loved the water, ever since I was little. I’ve finished runner-up (at state) twice.”
Did you ever play high school volleyball against any current teammates?
HESS: “I think we played Sandpoint once in my junior year,” Hess said. “I didn’t know Kayla (Neumann) back then, but I think we played them that year at state.”
Twitter or Instagram?
HESS: “Instagram. I don’t really understand Twitter. I really don’t think I even have it on my phone anymore.”
What was your first impression of NIC?
HESS: “It’s a family, we’re all a family. Everyone is a really close-knit group. Everyone knows everyone and we’re all at each other’s sporting events cheering each other on. I just love the atmosphere here.”
Did getting engaged help change your outlook on the season?
HESS: “I was definitely a lot more focused this year. I knew exactly what I needed to do this season and how I needed to do it. And it’s really made me successful.”
What has Kelsey Stanley (NIC volleyball coach) meant to you?
HESS: “She’s been like a mom. She’s been great. She knows just how hard to push you and when to just help. Both on and off the court.”