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National Signing Day: Viking Athletes Put Pen to Paper at LSHS Ceremony
Seven Viks ink LOIs: Volleyball's Alyss Kelly & Katelyn Eichert, soccer star Zoe Hopkins, rower Kennedy Cardona, wrestler Jaden Jennings, softball's Ava Heston and basketball star Nisa Ellis
LAKE STEVENS - Seven Viking athletes put pen to paper at the National Signing Day ceremony held on campus in Lake Stevens Wednesday. Among those continuing their athletic careers after graduation include the current captains of the Vikings Girls’ Soccer and Girls’ Basketball teams, as well as the co-captains of the State-bound Lake Stevens Vikings Volleyball team. In addition, this year’s signees include a rower headed to Pullman, a wrestler headed to Nebraska, and a softball star continuing her career in-state. We’ll cover all of the above in J425’s signing day special coverage.
First, we’ll take a quick roll call of who’s who in the paragraphs that follow. Then, J425 has put together a capsule for each athlete — see the bottom of this post. (Please note that each capsule contains a link to an individual J425 story covering each athlete’s commitment. This is a big deal, everyone deserves their own headline. - KTH)
Soccer captain Zoe Hopkins is headed to Seattle University, where the prolific and multi-talented forward will challenge herself against top division competition at one of the region’s established soccer powers. J425 attended a series of games this season and at times were left dumbfounded by Zoe’s skill, endurance and athleticism. She combines the goal scoring acumen of traditional 9 with the fully-rounded skill set of a ten. Zoe has a deadly long throw that creates goal-scoring opportunities anytime she’s in the final third, she’s got breakaway speed, an exceptional shot, the aforementioned vision and passing ability of a 10 and an engine that never stops. In our opinion she’s a hell of a player and she’ll fit right in at the top level of collegiate soccer.
Senior Volleyball co-captains Alyss Kelly and Katelyn Eichert signed with Kansas State and Westminster respectively today. Their Viking Volleyball team charged hard through an undefeated conference schedule and a second-place finish at the District playoffs. The Viks start state tourney play Friday, 9:45 am at the Yakima Sun Dome.
J425 profiled Kelly last month and took a look at the incredible resources that the Big 12 Wildcat program has put towards volleyball. Kelly will be competing against schools that expect to win conference and even national titles, and Kansas State is projecting itself into those ranks as well, with a new highly-thought of coach (hired from UW) and a state-of-the-art volleyball facility and integrated Olympic training center.
Kelly is one of the country’s best at the Libero position – the back row defensive specialist charged with dealing with opponent attacks, smothering out incoming fire and beginning the offensive cycle.
In our limited viewing experience, this equates to Kelly tossing herself headlong towards the endpoint of whatever missile the opps have smacked the Viks’ way. And not only does she prevent the opponent from scoring, she typically redirects the incoming energy in such a manner that the ball is politely directed unerringly towards the other senior co-captain – Setter Katelyn Eichert.
Eichert is a virtuoso of the pass (the set), moving with grace and strength through the maelstrom of bodies and arriving at the perfect spot to perform a one-footed leap under the now-descending ball flight.
As Eichert reaches the apex of her jump, two hands extended over head, she catches the ball as if it’s a robin egg, flexing her wrists and fingers to absorb the incoming energy, before redirecting the ball with a quick flick of the wrists or a feathery roll of the fingers.
For the Viks, Eichert’s trademark assist often heads the way of her sister – the Viks’ all world sophomore outside hitter Laura Eichert.
If Katelyn is Cavs’ era Kyrie Irving, non-chalantly rolling a blind, downey-soft alley oop directed into vertical space that appears unattended until Laura channels Cavs-era Lebron, soaring through the heavens after launching herself through lower earth orbit via an incredibly graceful yet shockingly sudden prescribed two footed leap routine that she’ll perform over …and over…and over again throughout the match: a quick sprint backwards, angled left.
A massive arm-swinging stride into a shorter gather step, transferring the stored kinetic energy explosively upwards, where eventually Laura’s thunderous two-footed leap typically puts her howitzer of a right arm in contact with the same volleyball that the aforementioned Kelly retrieved and redirected towards Katelyn; who then performed the balletic volleyball version of the alley oop just seconds earlier.
Blam. People scatter on the other side of the net. Rinse, repeat.
Kelly and (Katelyn) Eichert are an unparalleled duo in the history of Lake Volleyball, according to head coach Kyle Hoglund.
Hoglund says that Kelly has demolished the previous record for digs, racing past a previous mark of 551 to a current total of 780.
Eichert, meanwhile, has raced past previous assist marks, besting the old standard by over 200 and counting. See the capsules below for Hoglund’s remarks on each player.
J425 wholeheartedly agrees with his characterization of Kelly and Eichert as not just unusually talented athletes and competitors, but incredibly kind, smart, well-rounded and yet humbly grounded individuals who just get “it” right. And by it I just mean everything apparent. The two captains evoke an aura of… innate positivity and servant leadership. They both represent an outstanding combination of competitive and interpersonal skills coupled with an empathetic awareness of the world around them, for lack of a better term.
Nisa Ellis is the other outstanding senior captain (we’re taking a wild guess on the captaincy) signing on to continue her athletic career after Lake Stevens. Like Katelyn Eichert, Nisa is headed to Westminster University in Utah, where’s she’ll continue to hone the refined brand of basketball she’s brought to Wesco courts over the last couple years.
Nisa was one of the first non-football athletes J425 covered extensively after we re-launched in 2021. So apologies in advance for the favoritism, but I’m a big fan, and I did wear a Nisa Ellis shirt today at the signing ceremony. Nisa is a hell of a basketball player, arguably miscast as low-post player in previous years if for no other reason than she can do it at an All State-type level without complaint.
But to pigeonhole her game based on the never-ending array of double doubles she records would be to sell her short. Ellis has the height, reach and strength to dominate the boards and she’s done so each of the last two years.
She’s also got an excellent handle, a deadly ability to trigger initial and/or secondary breaks with direct and/or outlet passing…and a feathery jumper that’s money out beyond the arc. Nisa is also a tenacious man and team defender. On top of all that, she’s a brilliant student, an excellent writer and speaker, and just an outstanding, kind, grounded, mature and genuinely great person. Luckily for anyone reading this wrap up, you’ve got a full season of Viks GBB to follow Nisa’s on-court heroics. Consider this an enthusiastic review and an invitation to Nisa’s senior season home opener.
J425 wasn’t lucky enough to cover senior rower Kennedy Cardona – who is headed to Washington State University…or wrestler Jaden Jennings, who will continue his mat work in Neraska, or softball star Ava Heston, who will make the 90 mile trek from Lake Stevens to St. Martins after graduation. But we’ve collected as much info as we can to pass along on each via the capsules below and the individual articles published to mark each’s accomplishment in signing with a collegiate athletic program. As with all included athletes, see below for a capsule describing their signing day profile. Also, keep in mind that many athletes are still working out their college futures.
Class of 2024 Signing Day Capsules
Kennedy Cardona – Rowing – Washington State University
Competes with the Everett Rowing Association. Competed in the Women’s U17 4+ US Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida.
“Kennedy is a well-regarded competitor at the national level, competing in numerous club events. She says there's nothing better than being on the water and working a part of the team. She'll be rowing with the Washington State University rowing team. We wish her all the best success at Washington State. Go Cougs.”
- Jason Pearson, Viking Athletic Director
Katelyn Eichert – Volleyball (Setter) – Westminster University (Utah)
Lake’s all-time leader in assists, Katelyn Eichert, signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her athletic career at Westminster University in Utah on Wednesday in a signing day ceremony held at Lake Stevens High School.
Lake Stevens Volleyball Coach Kyle Hoglund told the gathered crowd that Katelyn was “really an honor to be around,” and “the sweetest, nicest person around. Just so nice.” Katelyn’s work and determination are also unmatched,” Hoglund said, adding that he and the program in general would miss Eichert in the future.
Eichert was joined at signing day by volleyball co-captain Alyss Kelly and by basketball signee Nisa Ellis - who will join Katelyn at Westminster next year. Lake Stevens volleyball is headed to the WIAA State Tournament in Yakima, where they’ll face Gonzaga Prep at 9:45 am Friday, Nov. 17 on Court 3. The Vikings finished second last year.
Nisa Ellis – Basketball (Forward) – Westminster University (Utah)
The six-foot senior wing averaged a gaudy 15.4 ppg, 16 rebounds and nearly one and a half blocks per game last season, working predominantly inside out of team necessity.
Lake Stevens Vikings senior forward Nisa Ellis committed to Westminster University (Utah) Wednesday at a National Signing Day ceremony at Lake Stevens High School. Ellis ended her recruitment prior to the commencement of her anticipated senior season. The returning All-Area forward is one of the best players to pass through Lake Stevens in some time, and the Vikings are loaded with returning talent in support of Ellis.
She’ll join Katelyn Eichert (volleyball) at Westminster.
Ava Heston – Softball (shortstop) – St. Martins University
Ava Heston is a shortstop/center fielder with impressive quickness and a quick, powerful right handed swing. Heston is also a varsity basketball player and Running Start Student with a 4.0 GPA and an aggressive AP class load. She committed to St. Martins University in Olympia. According to a personal statement posted to a recruiting site, Ava has played softball since 5 years of age.
“It’s my dream to play softball at the collegiate level. Everything I do, on and off the field, is to ensure this happens. You will not find another athlete that works harder than me. I work every day to improve my game, whether I am doing ladder drills to improve my footwork, completing my daily workout, watching college softball games, or just playing catch out front with my dad or brother,” Heston said.
She enjoys paddle boarding Lake Stevens, reading and hiking.
Zoe Hopkins – Soccer (Forward) – Seattle University
The Second Team All Area (midfielder) and Viking co-captain committed to Seattle University. Returning to her natural forward position after a teamwide injury crisis forced her to take on midfield duties last season, Zoe had a prolific senior campaign for the Viks, following on her junior year in which she poured in ten goals from midfield while leading a team decimated by injuries.
“Zoe is one of the most dynamic, prolific players to come through Lake Stevens. Her seismic impact on our program began as a freshman, extended through her senior year, one of our most successful seasons in recent history,” said Athletic Director Jason Pearson Wednesday.
“Her dominating presence on the field inspired our players to excel and caused our opponents fear. Teams literally had to game plan their matches around this player. We're excited to watch her play soccer at Seattle University,” Pearson said.
Jaden Jennings – Wrestling – Hastings College (Nebraska)
Jaden Jennings is a state qualifying wrestler whom Coach Derek Lopez calls “a difference maker on the mat and in the team”. Jennings has faced injuries throughout his high school career, dealing with an AC joint shoulder issue, a leg fracture, and major knee cartilage damage requiring reconstructive surgery. As a result, Jennings sat out all of the 2023 season.
“A personal goal I've had for a while is to be the first person in my family to graduate from a college or university, I was searching for the best to call home for the next few years of my life,” Jennings said.
“I'm really excited to see what he does when he gets in Nebraska, but I'm really proud of him,” Lopez said.
Alyss Kelly – Volleyball (Libero) – Kansas State University
All-Time Viking Digs Leader, All Wesco, Senior Co-Captain
Kelly chose the Big 12 offer out of Manhattan, KS over interest from a bevy of schools including Michigan State and Washington State University among others. The Wildcats opened a new state-of-the-industry volleyball-specific arena and training center this summer, attached to a parallel Olympic training facility. The up-and-coming program is led by a highly-thought of new coach Jason Mansfield, whom the Wildcats nabbed from Montlake last year. Mansfield’s initial proximity to Kelly played some factor in her recruitment, Kelly told J425.