HIBBING — Four former Hibbing Community College volleyball players will be inducted into the Minnesota College Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
The four former Cardinal volleyball athletes being honored are Breanna Chamernick, Nina Lutmer, Kristin Riesgraf and Kelsey Wirtanen.
For Chamernick, that was a bit of good news in a rough time for the former Hibbing Bluejacket and Cardinal.
She was supposed to be getting married to Erik Stish on May 30, but that wedding has been postponed due to COVID-19.
“I’ve cried a lot over that, but I’m moving forward the best I can,” Chamernick said. “This is the best news I’ve heard in the past two months. It’s an honor.
“I thought I was forgotten about, but I did play in 2008-09, so that was over 10 years ago. It’s crazy that 10 years later I’m getting recognition. I never expected it, but I’m so happy right now.”
In Chamernick’s time on the court, she set Hibbing records in serve-receive percentage (95.72), and digs (1,519).
In both seasons, Chamernick was named the NJCAA National Player of the Year, while earning First-Team All-American honors. She also earned 2009 Academic All-American honors.
“I have nothing but good memories from my time there,” Chamernick said. “We placed third at the Nationals my first year, but unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Nationals my second year.
“We had successful teams, one of the most successful teams the college had seen in years. It was such a good team, and Coach (Mike) Turnbull was one of the best coaches I had.”
It was Turnbull that turned Chamernick into the player she became at the collegiate level.
Chamernick was a libero her first season with the Cardinals, then, somewhat unexpectedly, she was a 5-foot-6-inch middle hitter
“He had a lot of confidence in me,” Chamernick said. “He let me do my thing the first year, then I was a middle hitter my second season. I had to play everywhere my second year.
“I feel honored, and most importantly, I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without Coach Turnbull and my teammates. I have to thank them, quite honestly.”
Wirtanen suited up for the Cardinals in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. She earned NJCAA First team All-America and Academic All-America status following Hibbing’s 2010 season.
“It’s a great honor,” Wirtanen said. “It’s exciting to be inducted into the hall of fame with a lot of great players beside me. Honestly, the first text I got about it confused me a little bit, but I was shocked.
“I had no idea that was happening.”
Wirtanen has fond memories of her time at HCC.
“I loved both of my seasons there,” Wirtanen said. “I loved my teammates, and I loved Coach Turnbull. I had a great experience there. We were competitive, and it was fun to play with some of my old teammates from high school, like Breanna.
“I made some of my best friends in those two years there. It was a good experience.”
Wirtanen spent her first year on the team as a middle hitter, then she moved to the outside during her sophomore season.
Lutmer competed during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
During her sophomore year, Lutmer earned NJCAA Honorable Mention All-America accolades and Academic All-America status as well.
Lutmer still holds the Cardinal record for career set assists at 2,235, and single-season helpers with 1,204.
“I had no idea about it, but a co-worker had seen it and texted me about it,” Lutmer said. “I was like, What?’ I’m surprised. It seems like so long ago, but it makes me smile. Honestly, I didn’t know that was a thing or an option.
“It reminds me of that time in my life. It was a fun time. We had a great team, and the memories it brings back are positive ones.”
Lutmer, along with the other inductees, learned the game from former Hibbing coach Gail Nucech, but she also credits Turnbull for making her game better.
“Having Mike as a coach, he trusted me,” Lutmer said. “He left a lot of things to my judgement, and that helped me play the best I ever had. He inspired a lot of confidence in me that I never had.”
Lutmer didn’t realize she still held those records for assists, but she couldn’t have accomplished those marks on her own.
“I had good hitters around me, and we had that chemistry,” Lutmer said.
Riesgraf was a member of the Cardinals during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. She was just as surprised at her induction as the other three.
“I don’t know if I would have found out until I saw an email about it,” Riesgraf said. “I saw some other posts on Facebook, but if I wasn’t looking for it, I wouldn’t have found out about it.
“I don’t know if they knew how to track us all down, but I was surprised and shocked. I was like, ‘What is this?’ I wasn’t even knowledgeable about that Hall of Fame. I wasn’t expecting anything like this. None of us were in the loop.”
Riesgraf credits not only Turnbull for her success, but also Nucech.
“We not only played two years at HCC, but all four of us came from Hibbing High School and club programs,” Riesgraf said. “That speaks volumes for the training, mentorship and coaching we received.
“There was that commonness between the four of us. We spent a lot of time with the same coaches.”
Riesgraf, who is now an assistant coach at UWS and also a Math Lecturer and Math Lab Supervisor, has a new appreciation as to what Turnbull had to go through when it came time to recruiting.
“I realize how quickly Mike had to do that,” Riesgraf said. “You would lose half of your team or more, then you have to bind those new players together. That’s how we came together. We bought into the culture. We had the work ethic, and that comes through in our training.”
In 2006, Riesgraf received NJCAA First Team All-American honors.
She still holds some top marks in both single-season and career-statistical categories, including single-season kills (484) and career kills (913).
She had 30 of those kills in a single match against Mesabi Range,
“That’s cool, but I was playing my role,” Riesgraf saiad. “I was the go-to hitter, and I found a way to be consistent at putting the ball down. I had trust in my teammates, and they had trust in me.
“If your setter doesn’t believe in you, you’re not going to get the ball. That means more to me than the numbers.”
They join fellow Cardinals Orville Olson, Frank Catani, Joseph Milinovich, Larry Ness, Doug Schmitz, Dick Varichak, John Anderson, Jay Caufield, Dick Garmaker, David Herbst, Frank Russ Jr., Lloyd Stein and Don Stahl Sr. and Anna Van Tassel as members of the hall of fame.