As Thunder Ridge senior Paige Clark examined her options for playing collegiate volleyball, she had a couple criteria in mind: She likes Idaho Falls, so the school had to be close, but not too close. She had to gel with the coaches.
Montana checked both boxes, so on Wednesday afternoon in the Thunder Ridge cafeteria, Clark signed her National Letter of Intent with the Grizzlies.
“I’ve been trying all my life to get to this point,” Clark said. “So it feels awesome now that all these years of playing volleyball have finally paid off.”
Clark will join a program that resides in Missoula, Montana, some 4 1/2 hours away from Idaho Falls. The Grizzlies had their 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Instead, they’ll play a Spring 2021 season.
None of that dissuaded Clark, who earned the opportunity by becoming one of Thunder Ridge’s best players over her three-year career with the Titans.
She often led the team in kills, Thunder Ridge coach Keisha Fisher remarked, but she contributed in myriad other ways with her serving, passing, and setting. She wasn’t just one of the team’s best players. She was also one of its most important.
That manifested in several ways, but the most memorable came last fall, when Thunder Ridge captured the 5A state title — in just its second year as a program.
“That was probably the highlight of everything around here,” Clark said. “And then just hanging out with our friends. Last year, we had these four girls that I had been playing with for so long, so playing with them was definitely the best part about being at Thunder Ridge.”
Next, though, she has to move on to the college level. That represents several differences — namely moving away and adopting a different lifestyle — but on the court, she’ll have some adjusting to do.
Fortunately for Clark, she said she feels prepared.
“It’s going to be an adjustment, because there’s obviously a big gap between high school and college,” Clark said. “But our coaches, they’ve coached college before, so the practices I feel like will be pretty similar, because we did our practices like colleges. There’s going to be an adjustment, but I think I’m going to be able to handle it.”