By Bruce Sayler
Better weather to weather turned out to be a sunny selling point.
Butte High senior Kira Mortensen signed her NCAA letter of intent Wednesday to play volleyball while attending Division III power California Lutheran in Thousand Oaks.
The ceremony occurred in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym, site of many of Mortensen’s volleyball and basketball accomplishments, in Butte High School. Her family of parents Clint and Laura, and brothers Bo and Jak looked on, as did volleyball coaches Jeni Hope and Nicole Peacock, football coach Arie Grey, teacher Lindsey Kambich, and other teachers and staff members. Also in attendance were two other Bulldog athletes bound for college athletics, Tommy Mellott (Montana State football) and Catherine Russo (Ohio State swimming).
“It’s what I’ve always wanted,” Kira Mortensen said. “Volleyball is my favorite sport and the weather there is fantastic, nice and warm.”
The California Lutheran program is directed by 14-year head coach Kellee Roesel. The Regals won the 2015 NCAA Division III national championship and have never missed the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference post-season tournament. Roesel has never experienced a losing season and has guided Cal Lutheran to 12 NCAA D-III tournaments, eight conference regular-season titles, five SCIAC tournament crowns and to four NCAA regional thrones. The head coach of the California Lutheran men’s volleyball program, Kevin Judd, serves as Roesel’s assistant. Roesel has a 341-93 record at the Regals’ helm.
Roesel and Mortensen found each other on the internet.
“I searched online for film programs, because that’s what I want to do,” Mortensen said. “I e-mailed them. They e-mailed me back and I went on a visit. I’ve been set ever since.”
The 6-foot-2 Butte High middle blocker said she has seen the Thousand Oaks campus twice, once on her official recruiting visit and then again at the honors meeting where she locked down scholarships. Division III doesn’t award athletic scholarships, but Mortensen carries a 4.0 grade-point average, so easily qualifies for academic support to justify athletic preference.
She is planning to study film with an eye on the movie business. California Lutheran is a private school with an enrollment of about 3,000 students.
Injuries hampered Mortensen’s high school sports career, but she still was a four-year letterwinner in volleyball, earning Academic All-State all four years. She was also an Eastern AA All-Conference second-team honoree in 2017 and 2018, the same years she was picked the Butte High offensive player of the year. Her mother, Laura, was a volleyball Hall of Fame athlete at Montana Tech and is an assistant with Peacock on Hope’s staff at Butte High. Clint Mortensen played football at Montana Tech. Kira’s older brother, Bo Mortensen, was also recruited to play football for the Orediggers.
A knee injury ended Kira Mortensen’s high school volleyball career midway through her senior year, and wiped out her entire senior season of basketball. She said she is well, now, however.
“The knee is all better,” she said. “I just sprinted in track practice for the first time and it was great. I’m officially back. I am so excited.”
Concussions plagued her junior season, but have not been a recent problem.
“It’s been a long journey,” she said. “The concussions and then the knee injury, it was all so frustrating. I’m glad it didn’t really hinder anything (regarding college prospects). I’m just super excited, now. The future looks great.”