ELLIOTT: A lot to get excited about at NIC

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Whether it comes from those that are back — both playing or on the bench — there was plenty of optimism coming from coaches at North Idaho College during their annual Coaches Showcase last Wednesday at Le Peep in Coeur d’Alene.

Now comes the fun part.

The games and matches over the coming months.

MEN’S SOCCER coach Ken Thompson’s explanation for an early 0-4 start came down to smoke and trains.

“We’re starting to sort out those early season problems,” Thompson said. “During our first games of the year at the Starfire Soccer Complex, they put our bench behind where the trains go by, so I’d be trying to yell something to the team, and nobody could hear me over the trains.”

NIC improved to 2-4 over the weekend, beating Treasure Valley and Blue Mountain at home in a pair of East Region matches at Eisenwinter Field.

Women’s basketball coach Chris Carlson will have a lot of new faces in his program this year — his 15th in charge of the program — with only Zosha Krupa returning.

Six players from last year’s team have since moved on to play collegiately after graduating from NIC.

Korina Baker, a point guard on the Cardinals’ 2011 NJCAA championship team, returns as an assistant coach.

“It’s going to be great to have her around,” said Carlson of Baker, who went on to play at Southern Methodist University after her time at NIC. “We’re really excited to have Zosha back.”

Carey Carlson, Chris’ wife and his longtime assistant, stepped down after taking a teaching job at the school.

Local products Keara Simpson (Lake City), Kaili Cates (Kellogg) and Mary Schlader (North Idaho Christian) are among the incoming freshmen to the program.

“Keara was recruited at the Division I level, but chose to stay here,” said Carlson, who coached Simpson with the North Idaho Elite AAU program. “We’ve got our work cut out for us with the past two NWAC champions (Walla Walla in 2018, and Community Colleges of Spokane in 2017) coming from our region. But I think we’ll be right there pushing for a playoff spot.”

Women’s soccer coach Dan Hogan joked a little bit with Thompson as his team held a better record thus far, albeit at 0-2-2 after four matches.

“We finally scored a goal last weekend,” said Hogan, whose team played to a scoreless draw in the opener vs. Clackamas on Aug. 23, and then was shut out by Skagit Valley on Aug. 24.

Like Thompson’s team, NIC then went 2-0 to open East Region play last weekend, with another match today at Yakima Valley.

Kellsi Parson, a Lewiston High product who played midfield at NIC in 2012 and 2013, returns to campus as an assistant coach. She was previously the soccer coach at Lewiston.

THE NIC volleyball team is 6-5 following a runner-up finish at the Community Colleges of Spokane tournament last weekend.

Coach Kelsey Stanley knows her team has the potential to be a lot better going forward.

“We’ve got eight freshmen this year, but we don’t feel that young when we play,” Stanley said.

East Region MVP Kayla Neumann of Sandpoint returns, along with all-conference selection Hailee Etter.

“Kayla played really well for us last year, and we’re expecting her to do the same this year,” Stanley said. “Hailee is a fun one to watch.”

Pat Whitcomb’s wrestling team enters the season five wins away from a 700th in program history.

Saying that they might have recruited a few local athletes to join the program might be an understatement.

Joining the program are sophomores Bryce Parson — a former Lewiston standout — as well as Dylan Lockwood, a Coeur d’Alene High product.

Parson went to Oregon State out of high school in 2015.

“I kind of lost a little bit of love for the sport,” Parson said. “I had a job offer to go roof some houses in Florida, and then (NIC assistant coach) Keri (Stanley) called me and offered me a scholarship. Coeur d’Alene sounded good to me.”

Parson’s next call went to Lockwood, who competed at NAIA Montana State-Northern in Havre as a freshman during the 2016-17 season.

Parson and Lockwood wrestled against each other in high school.

“I ended up taking a year off and didn’t think I wanted to wrestle anymore,” Lockwood said. “Once Bryce said he was coming, I was in. I called Keri and asked, and he told me to come into the office and we’d figure it out.”

NIC wrestling opens the season at Montana State-Northern on Nov. 1.

LAST MARCH, the men’s basketball team celebrated its first NWAC Championship, beating Peninsula 90-83 in overtime of the championship game in Everett, Wash.

“We had a great year last year,” said NIC men’s basketball coach Corey Symons, who begins his fifth year as head coach when the team faces Peninsula on Nov. 17 at Rolly Williams Court. “Next month, I got an email that said when Sporting News releases its preseason junior college poll, we’re going to be 15th in the nation and (sophomore guard) RayQuan (Evans) is in the top five players to watch, along with incoming freshman Nate Pryor — a Washington commit — who was named a top-five freshman to watch.”

Josh Whittaker and Zach Camel join the coaching staff as assistants to Symons. Full-time assistant George Swanson returns, as does Colby Denton, who was a first-year assistant during the 2017-18 season. Camel played at the University of Montana before serving as a graduate assistant in recent years.

Local products include James Carlson of Lake City and Emmitt Taylor III of Lapwai.

NIC returns eight players off a softball team that finished 50-3 last year, romping to an NWAC championship last May at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane.

Sophomore Madi Mott, who finished 29-1 with a 2.07 earned run average with 208 strikeouts in the circle and hit .432 as a freshman, returns. She’ll be the lone returning pitcher, but Betty Comack (Coeur d’Alene) and McKenzie Wilson (Lake City) join the rotation, to be coached by new pitching coach Jordyn McCracken. McCracken, a Lake City product, went on to play at Utah State. Sophomore Ashlynn Winn, who hit 20 home runs last year, also returns.

Dan Silvas, a longtime Lake City assistant, is now a volunteer assistant at NIC.

NIC will test itself over the fall against the University of Montana on Saturday, Sept. 29 in Missoula.

Williams’ daughter, Reilly, is an rising freshman from the Grizzlies after graduating from Lake City last spring.

“That’s going to be a really fun day for us,” Don Don Williams said.

NIC will also play fall games on Sept. 22 and Oct. 6 at Finucane Park starting at 1 and 3 p.m., and wrap up the fall schedule at Central Washington in Ellensburg on Oct. 16.

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at jelliott@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.

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