Thompson Falls volleyball standout Ember Schwindt initially had a difficult adjustment as she entered her senior year.
Schwindt, who spent the first 17 years of her life in the Cascade School system, a town approximately a 20-minute drive outside of Great Falls, moved 262 miles to Thompson Falls to finish out her high school and volleyball career at the start of the 2016 school year.
At first, the move was a difficult adjustment for Schwindt, the Lady Bluehawks’ middle blocker that was a centerpiece towards driving a team that finished third in the Class-B state tournament this season.
“The transition was really tough because I was growing up and my family was in Cascade since I was in kindergarten,” Schwindt admitted. “However, after moving here, the people and the players I played with were so supportive. It was just easy to get along and it felt like I’ve basically been playing here my whole life.”
According to Schwindt, the initial experience was “nerve wracking.”
“It was tough not knowing anyone but everyone was really supportive,” Schwindt said. “I blended in with their system so well and that works best for us. We tried to help our team the best way possible. I’ve always been a middle hitter my whole life and I played outside hitter for the first time. I managed to make it work and it ended up working out for us. By the end of the season, we had a tight-bonded team.”
In addition to a state title, Schwindt also admitted she was eyeing playing at the college level. She had several colleges interested but she had her eye on one: the University of Great Falls. Schwindt will join the Great Falls team, an NAIA-sanctioned university, and she said the move feels like a “return home.”
“I did have quite a few colleges who I had been talking to and some that came and saw me play but I had my heart set on Great Falls,” Schwindt said. “I was open to join anywhere because I know I have the ability to play at this level and wanted to play at a higher level. That was just motivating.”
Schwindt said one of the University of Great Falls’ selling points was the close proximity to home.
“Moving here from the Eastern portion of Montana has been hard for me and going back to Great Falls is just like going home,” Schwindt said. “I have played with most of the girls that will be on the team and went to camps with them. It feels like the team was set up before I ever committed to the team. Yeah, I went on like a college tour a little while ago and there were girls from all over the country looking to being recruited.”
Schwindt’s official move-in date will be July 30.
A multi-sport athlete, Schwindt said she even generated interest from collegiate track programs. She said she “wasn’t interested” in playing anything outside of volleyball.
“I just wasn’t really into track,” Schwindt admitted. “The Great Falls coach and I have been talking for a few years. I was just interested and really comfortable with him and the players. It was just an easy decision to commit.”
In the NAIA, a competitive league with no age designation that allows athletes from all over the world to receive an education while playing a sport they excel in, she said she just hopes to fit into the system in her first season as a freshman.
“I just hope I can be beneficial to the team and the most helpful,” Schwindt said. “It’s going to be important to know my team my freshman year, where I am going to be playing, and what skills I need to learn to be successful in the place the coach puts me in. I am really excited. It’s kind of scary and nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. It’ll be interesting to see what opportunities it brings and where it takes me.”