Boise State

Six Boise State Broncos to watch in fall sports other than football

An athletic department can’t live on football alone — and neither should we.

With the football team too busy for interviews Tuesday (two-a-days), we decided to check in on Boise State’s other fall sports.

We found a three-time All-Mountain West first-teamer on the soccer field, a cross country nationals qualifier who didn’t start running until three years ago, the two best women’s golfers by scoring average in school history and a pair of building blocks for the improving volleyball program.


• Season opener: Friday at Samford; home opener: Aug. 30 vs. Washington State

If you want to see the senior midfielder from Rocky Mountain High squirm, ask about the chance to become the third four-time All-Mountain first-teamer in conference history.

“A lot of people ask me that,” she said. “I feel kind of awkward about it because I don’t think about it. Honestly, it comes down to the team. I give credit to the team every time because I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it wasn’t for my teammates. It reflects on what this program has done the last four years and how we’ve grown.”

Heidemann has played attacking midfield, holding midfield and defensive midfield because of her versatility. She has gone from tackle-shy as a freshman to a strong defender and often attracts special attention from opponents because of her offensive skills.

She is tied for third in school history with 17 goals and tied for fourth with 40 points.

Her goal this season: Play for the Mountain West title. The Broncos lost in the final two years ago.

Mountain West coaches voted the Broncos sixth in the preseason poll but they received a first-place vote.

“We’ve worked so hard the last three years and we’ve gotten so close,” Heidemann said. “... For our team, it’s the heart, and we have it this year.”


• Season opener: Sept. 11 in San Francisco

Rafla decided to run cross country during his junior year at Timberline High. He tried the track team the previous spring at the suggestion of friends but didn’t do much.

In his third season in the sport, he qualified for the NCAA Championships last fall.

He can’t explain the sudden success.

“The coaches I’ve had have been really, really good with not pushing too much on me at once,” he said. “I’ve had a really easy and smooth transition.”

Rafla, the Mountain West Freshman of the Year for cross country, redshirted during the indoor and outdoor track seasons while dealing with a foot stress fracture. He was out for nine weeks and is ready to begin running with his teammates again.

“Running just makes you happy,” he said. “There’s a lot of social aspect to it. You become really good friends with all the people you’re running with every day.”


• Season opener: Aug. 28 vs. Portland State in Spokane; home opener: Sept. 3 vs. Idaho State

The two young stars helped the Broncos post a winning record in league play (11-7) last season for the first time since joining the Mountain West in 2011.

They’re hoping to see even more improvement this year.

“We have a lot of talented returning players who have a good chemistry together,” Nobley said.

Nobley, a sophomore outside hitter, started all 30 matches as a freshman. She was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year after setting a conference record for kills by a freshman (432), a total that was six shy of the overall school record.

She plans to expand her game this season.

“Last year, I think Coach saw me only as an offensive weapon,” she said. “... This year, I’m really focusing on my defense and being more vocal on the court.”

O’Donnell, a junior middle blocker, boasts the highest career attack percentage in school history at .381. She led the team in blocks and aces last season.

She and teammate Kaitlyn Oliver, a sophomore middle blocker, joined the Mountain West All-Star team for the European Global Challenge in July in Croatia.

“That was awesome,” O’Donnell said. “... You play against teams who touch higher, play faster and play different styles than American volleyball. We both came back with a different mindset and mentality to go into this season just owning it.”


• Season opener: Sept. 14-15 in Fort Collins, Colo.

The three lowest scoring averages in school history belong to this duo — Ling last season(74.53), Martin last season (74.7) and Martin in 2013-14 (74.81).

“She is a great competitor and friend,” Martin, a senior, said via email. “... Gen and I help to lead the team and strive to reach our goals and support each other in whatever we do.”

Both say they have emphasized fitness this summer to get stronger. Ling returned home to Malaysia. She competed in the Southeast Asian Games and recently finished second in the Kuala Lumpur Amateur Open.

“I’ve been working on everything, but focusing on fitness, putting and the mental game,” Ling, a junior, said via email. “I think that the summer or offseasons are the prime time to take care of these parts of the game so that I will be ready to compete when the season begins.”