JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Kalli Hegerle was in Las Vegas with her mom over Christmas break less than a year ago when Hegerle received some advice from their Uber driver.

The driver noticed the University of Jamestown junior volleyball player had a camera and asked Hegerle if she liked to take pictures. She responded with a “yes,” but added she hadn’t had a lot of time to take photos in the past.

“You need to make time for things you love and just go for it,” said Hegerle, relaying what the driver said to her. “I was like ‘Yeah, maybe I should.’”

She made her own Instagram account (kallihegerlephotos_) to display her photos. Around that same time, the West Fargo High School graduate also made a change in her athletic career, transferring to Jamestown from North Dakota State.

Like her photos, Hegerle has thrived in her first season with the Jimmies, who are undefeated and in first place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The University of Jamestown (9-0, 7-0 GPAC) swept Concordia (Neb.) Friday, Oct. 16, at Harold Newman Arena.

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University of Jamestown's Kalli Hegerle, left, shares a laugh with teammate Nicole Schmitz prior to the Jimmies' intrasquad scrimmage held at Harold Newman Arena on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. Michael Savaloja / Forum News Service
University of Jamestown's Kalli Hegerle, left, shares a laugh with teammate Nicole Schmitz prior to the Jimmies' intrasquad scrimmage held at Harold Newman Arena on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. Michael Savaloja / Forum News Service

The 6-foot Hegerle ranked third in the GPAC in hitting percentage and is tied for the team lead with 3.0 kills per set.

“Coming in, I was kind of nervous,” said Hegerle, who began school at Jamestown in the second semester last year. “I didn’t know if it was going to be the right fit for me. It’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had. … I love the small-school environment, getting to know everyone on campus. It’s been really great.”

The Jimmies are coming off a strong season where they advanced to the NAIA national semifinals. However, they lost four key front-row players from that team, a void that Hegerle has helped offset during her first season in the program.

“She really filled a role on our team in the front row,” said Jimmies head coach Jon Hegerle, Kalli’s uncle. “We graduated some really good players there and she stepped right in and has really done a great job. … The transition in my mind went really well.”

Kalli has posted nearly 250 photos on her Instagram account since her first post last January. A communications major, she had a photo internship over the summer and has helped take photos for the University of Jamestown athletic department. She started taking sports photos for the school last spring. She also likes to photograph weddings and do portraits.

Kalli said her goal is to become a professional sports photographer.

“I kind of fell in love with photography,” said Kalli, who added she’s not doing a lot of photography right now since she’s in season. “That’s one of my really big passions that I love doing.”

The Jimmies are scheduled to play 19 matches this fall with the GPAC tournament slated for the spring season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NAIA national tournament is also set to take place in the spring.

“It’s unique. We’re not really sure what the spring is going to look like,” said Jon Hegerle, in his 12th season as head coach. “We haven’t scheduled stuff for the spring yet. We have to be really willing to be flexible. We’ve made changes on the fly.”

Kalli is playing right-side hitter for the Jimmies after she played both hitter and setter at NDSU. She also played both hitter and setter in high school. She’s enjoyed concentrating on a hitting position in her first season with the Jimmies.

“She is such a good blocker and she has such good vision over there and she’s really dynamic as an attacker,” Jon said. “She can hit every shot. I think she is just getting better and better.”

Jon said when Kalli first transferred to UJ, he planned to invite his niece over for dinner one night a week throughout the spring since she didn’t know a lot of people at the school and in the community.

“To this day, she has yet to be over for dinner because she’s developed so many connections with our team and people on campus,” Jon said. “She jumped right and she’s been busy since she got here.”

Jimmies junior hitter Anna Holen, from LaMoure, N.D., averages 3.0 kills per set and was recently named the GPAC attacker and defender of the week. Junior setter Jackie Meiklejohn, from Dickey, N.D., was named the conference’s setter of the week.

“Our culture is all about loving each other and I think that’s one really important thing that we have that maybe other teams don’t have,” Kalli said. “Making every play better for each other. I think that’s one big aspect of how we’re performing.”