TWIN FALLS — Legendary College of Southern Idaho head volleyball coach Heidi Cartisser has died, a stunning and devastating blow to one of the nation’s elite volleyball programs, which saw their coach as a mentor on and off the court.
According to a Facebook post attributed to her family, she died in her sleep. Cartisser was 44.
“Our whole staff is in complete and total shock,” CSI athletic director Joel Bate said. “It is a huge loss. It’s a loss of a great person, first of all. It’s a loss of a great coach, a loss of a friend, a loss of a teacher, a loss of a mentor. She taught more than just volleyball.”
Cartisser, who played for CSI from 1991 to 1993, had just finished her 22nd season as a collegiate head volleyball coach and her 12th at CSI. She led the Golden Eagles to NJCAA titles in 2009, 2012 and 2015, a third-place finish in 2014 and a second-place finish this past season. Her record at CSI was 359-89, and her teams made six NJCAA tournaments.
Cartisser’s teams won seven Region 18 championships, and she was named the Region 18 Coach of the Year four times. She also earned three American Volleyball Coaches Association West Region Coach of the Year awards, and she received District Coach of the Year honors this fall.
“We had lessons of really what a coach is. A student-centered individual that gets a lot out of her players,” Bate said. “She was just a great teacher of all the things behind the scenes that need to get done.”
Marie Fujii was a setter for CSI from 2011 to 2012. Those were the best two years of her life, she said over the phone Tuesday.
Fujii grew up in Hawaii and went back after attending CSI. Those were her only two years living on the mainland, and she struggled to adjust.
Cartisser made Fujii feel right at home. The coach would often host team dinners, and though practices could be grueling, Fujii enjoyed them.
Cartisser’s motto was, “Make good choices,” a line she frequently uttered after practices. Fujii didn’t always heed that advice, but Cartisser helped steer her focus away from parties and toward the classroom.
“She helped guide me to be the person I am today. She molded me,” Fujii said. “There was something about Heidi, it’s unexplainable. She had this character about her that made you feel like you were her own child.”
Cartisser lost a significant amount of weight in recent years, which made Tuesday’s news all the more shocking to Fujii and E’Laisah Young, a freshman middle blocker on this year’s team.
Young grew up in Indiana, and like Fujii, she had a difficult time adjusting to her new, faraway home. Cartisser helped Young gain comfort in Twin Falls, giving her “a family away from my family,” Young said.
Cartisser was a disciplined coach, Young said, and she often yelled at her players. But Young never felt intimidated or demeaned. Cartisser always seemed to be coming from a good place, and she valued player growth above all else. When Young felt homesick or frustrated with her performance on the volleyball court, Cartisser helped guide her in a happier direction.
“I’m still in shock. It doesn’t seem real,” said Young, who spoke over the phone from Indiana. “I feel like when I go back, it’ll hit me, and I’ll break down. And when I break down, the one person that helps me with my breakdowns won’t be there anymore.”
Cartisser’s husband, Jim, has been an assistant coach under her since she took over the program in 2006. They have five children: Cody, Canyon, Cason, Cailey and Carli.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
Several current and former CSI volleyball players have expressed their sadness and gratitude toward Cartisser on Twitter:
Sophomore outside hitter Jojo Cruize:
I’m so heartbroken💔 I love you coach Rest in Love https://t.co/Nf5DtCKNNO— Jöjø (@jojo_kruize) December 19, 2017
Sophomore libero Esti Wilson:
Sophomore middle blocker Maysie Rongen:
...... I’m in such shock... my heart is devastated. 😭💔— mayson (@MaysieR3) December 19, 2017
Prayers to the Cartisser family! We all love you so much🙏💛— mayson (@MaysieR3) December 19, 2017
Freshman libero Makayla Bradford:
this doesn't seem real to me. had the pleasure to play for and know the best person and coach out there. rest in love coach heidi❤️— makayla💫 (@makaysss) December 19, 2017
Freshman setter Elle Nesbitt:
My heart hurts :(— Elle Nesbitt (@elle_nesbitt20) December 19, 2017
Freshman middle blocker E’Laisah Young:
RIP to one of the best coaches i’ve known ❤️🤞🏼 going back to idaho won’t be the same without you.— Laisah No Asia 🈵 (@Laisahs_Tweets) December 19, 2017
Freshman outside hitter Lacey McEwan:
My heart is heavy today.. I love you coach Heidi, and I am so grateful for everything you did for me and our team. Praying for the Cartisser family🙏🏻 You will be greatly missed and never forgotten❤️ Rest in Peace❤️🙏🏻— Lacey❄️🎄 (@LaceyMcEwan) December 19, 2017
Former right side/middle blocker Ashelyn Jones:
Kisses to the sky! For the best coach/leader/friend/ 2nd mom us CSI volleyball girls have ever loved and known !!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for making us a part of an amazing legacy ! ❤️ https://t.co/CttIIku4I1— Ashelyn Jones (@jones_ashelyn) December 19, 2017
Former middle blocker Jesse Seumalo:
Very saddened by this news. Heidi was not only an amazing coach, but an incredible mentor and friend. I am so honored to have played under her and Jim, and am extremely thankful for everything they did for me. All my love and prayers to the Cartisser family.— Jessi Seumalo (@Swagomalo) December 19, 2017
💛🖤 #LiveOrDieCSI https://t.co/rHFcb1HnAZ
SHOSHONE — The Idaho Department of Transportation Board wants to move the District 4 headquarters out of town. But townsfolk say moving the office would virtually rip the rug out from under Shoshone and Lincoln County.
Until last week, the proposed move from Shoshone to Crossroads Point near the Interstate 84/U.S. 93 junction was just a possibility. But Thursday, the board unanimously voted to study several options between Twin Falls and Jerome.
“Moving the office will crush Shoshone,” Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said Tuesday.
Stennett and Reps. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, and Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, are fighting to keep ITD in town. So are county and city officials.
Mayor Dan Pierson, who works for ITD, has recused himself from the issue.
“The situation puts the mayor in a bad position,” City Councilman Payson Reese said.
The district headquarters in Shoshone employs some 60 people, most of whom live out of town but still purchase fuel and meals at mom-and-pop stores and diners during the day.
About 1,500 people live in Shoshone, the county seat; about 5,200 people live in Lincoln County, including the tiny towns of Richfield and Dietrich.
“Our state leaders talk a big game when it comes to empowering our rural communities,” Toone said in a statement, “but this is just another example of our small towns and counties losing out to the larger cities.”
Various groups have studied the economic impact of moving the office out of Shoshone: One study says the town would lose as little as $82,000 of business per year, and another says the figure is closer to $500,000.
“I can’t in good conscience say the move would be productive to our state,” Stennett told the Times-News. “How are we as a state going to replace what the move would take away from Shoshone and Lincoln County?”
Shoshone has been home to a transportation department since the 1910s, before the ITD was the ITD, said spokesman Nathan Jerke. History aside, the 60-year-old building is dilapidated and too small for the transportation department’s current needs.
Most understand the need to replace the building but are not convinced the headquarters has to move out of town.
“I just want Shoshone to be given a shot,” Wood said. “If the bids show that it isn’t feasible, well, at least we got a shot.”
A preliminary cost estimate for new construction is about $4 million, Jerke said.
“ITD’s budget request is $5 million,” he said, “but that is projected to be more than adequate to cover all costs, including razing the current facility.”
Reese, who is also president of the local chamber of commerce, said he hasn’t heard anyone in town say the plan was a good idea.
But Shoshone doesn’t get to make that decision.
Ultimately the decision lies with the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, the powerful legislative committee that decides which projects get funded.
“I think they should leave (the headquarters) here,” Shoshone resident Donna Ross said. “I’ve seen too many things leave before.”
“Amen to that,” Dorothy Kerner said. “Pretty soon there won’t be anything left here.”
TWIN FALLS — Matt Matthews got an early Christmas present Tuesday, thanks to donations from his neighbors and a Twin Falls nonprofit.
His neighbors paid for a wheelchair ramp leading up to his house and Interlink Volunteer Caregivers installed it.
Matt is using a wheelchair as he recovers from plantaris tendon repair surgery in his left leg. And normally, he uses a walker to help with his mobility due to Parkinson’s disease.
Now, he’ll be able to more easily get in and out of his Twin Falls home.
It may seem like a remarkable act of kindness — and it is. But it’s just a normal part of life on Princeton Drive, an older, established Twin Falls neighborhood near the city pool. Residents describe as an idyllic place where they take care of one another.
Edie Schab, executive director of Interlink Volunteer Caregivers, said she has never heard of something like this happening before where neighbors raised money to pay for a ramp. It can cost $5,000 to $7,000 to have a ramp installed if you hire a contractor, Schab said. For the nonprofit, it typically costs about $300, thanks to discounted materials and volunteer labor.
Interlink Volunteer Caregivers provides volunteers to help elderly, disabled and chronically ill community members with home needs, chores and transportation to help them continue to live independently in their homes.
A former board member, who still volunteers for the nonprofit, emailed Schab last week about Matthews and his need for a ramp. The nonprofit is tight on funds for these types of projects, Schab said, so the volunteer said he could round up donations. He and his neighbors donated their own money — a total of $190 — last week to cover the cost of materials for the ramp.
As volunteer Carl Nellis installed the ramp outside Tuesday afternoon, Matthews was sitting in his living room in a reclining chair with his foot elevated. Matthews hadn’t heard it was his neighbors who made the donation. “It’s extremely nice,” he said.
Outside, Nellis was sawing wood and hammering it together to create a ramp. “It’s just amazing how fast he’s going at it,” said Matthews, who was impressed by the workmanship.
Matthews had surgery Nov. 28 in Salt Lake City to have a tendon repaired in his left leg. He has been instructed by doctors not to bend his leg until Jan. 18. With a few stairs leading up to his front door, “it’s been hard,” he said. He was relying on his wife and neighbors to lift him up in the wheelchair in order to get in and out of the house. And since he’s 6 feet 8 inches, that’s not an easy task. It usually takes three people.
Normally, Matthews uses a walker to get around due to his Parkinson’s. “My gait’s kind of off,” he said. He also uses an electric scooter, which he keeps in the garage, to get out onto grass so he can watch his daughters’ soccer games.
Matthews was diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than 10 years ago when he was 35. A couple of years ago, he became unable to work and is now on disability. If he sits for too long, he falls asleep. If he stands for too long, he develops blood clots in his legs.
Matthews and his wife, Sarah — who works at an accountant’s office — have two daughters, ages 5 and 7.
Despite the challenges, he keeps a good attitude. “Someone has to endure it,” he said.
He said his wife thinks he has bad luck. But he said he has good luck because he’s married, has two great children and wonderful neighbors.
Princeton Drive is an unusual neighborhood — one that’s almost a glimpse back in time. Residents know each other by name and take care of each other.
If someone is outside, others come out to chat. Children play together and ride bicycles up and down the street. Residents ask each other to close their garage door if they accidentally leave it open, or pick up a package off their front porch if they’re not home. If someone in the neighborhood is sick, they bring over food.
Neighbors helped the Matthews’ family put in sod and sprinklers in their yard when they moved into their house nearly four years ago.
“There’s a really good spirit of community,” said Lindsay Clark, one of Matthews’ neighbors who lives across the street.
Her husband, who didn’t want to be named, was the one who contacted Schab asking about a ramp for Matthews.
“We obviously know about Sarah and Matt’s struggles,” Clark said.
The Matthewses help others and don’t complain about their situation, she said. She and her neighbors wanted to do something tangible to relieve some of the family’s burdens.
Clark and her family contacted their neighbors by phone and knocked on doors starting Dec. 12 to ask for donations. Six people said “yes” right away and one said they’d pay for whatever amount was leftover.
During the Christmas season, it’s a way to do treat a neighbor as Jesus would, Clark said.
She hopes the story will be a spark for others to help those who live near them. “I hope it will inspire people to be neighbors.”