FARGO — Somewhere in August of 1980, Hank Klos and Kathy Stoll were hanging out in the North Dakota State dining center, probably before or after practice. Hank was a freshman football player from La Crosse, Wis., and Kathy a freshman volleyball player from Greenway High School in Coleraine, Minn.
Somehow, they most likely struck up a conversation about something. And this week, almost 40 years later, they’re still talking about Bison athletics. The love affair with each other and NDSU never ended.
Although the competitive end is in sight. Their youngest daughter, Abbi, is a senior libero on the Bison volleyball team that opens its home season Friday in the NDSU Classic against the University of California.
“It’s been a great trip,” said Hank, a phrase that could be used literally and figuratively. “It’s been a long time. I remember the first time I went up there with my parents, seeing the sunflower fields when you get past Alexandria. Fargo has been great for us.”
Their son, Aron, finished his NDSU track and field career last spring being part of a Summit League outdoor track and field title team. Abbi is going on her third year as a starting defensive specialist.
The lone ranger in the Klos (pronounced Close) college allegiance is daughter Alex, who played volleyball at Minnesota-Duluth.
“She feels a little bit left out at times,” Abbi said with a chuckle. “It’s all in good fun, but I’m sure she wishes she would have come here.”
The kids came to NDSU from La Crosse, where the family has driven the route so many times they could do it in their sleep.
“We could probably do it in reverse we’re so good at it,” Kathy said.
“Too many miles to count,” Abbi said. “They should just get one of those automatic cars.”
It takes about 6½ hours depending on the traffic in the northwest part of the Twin Cities metro. Back in Hank’s playing days, his parents used to drive it up and back in one day.
Now the Klos parents, both retired, are traveling the country watching Abbi compete in her final season. It’s also their final season being directly connected with Bison athletics.
Both played in the 1980s with a certain intensity. Aron had it in the 400 meters, one of the fastest yet grueling races in track. Abbi has it.
“I’ve been told from my teammates and coaches that I’m definitely intense,” Abbi said. “It’s in the blood.”
She’s the only senior on the Bison volleyball team that has been predominantly young the last two seasons. NDSU is 3-3 heading into one of the more marquee home matches in its Division I history. The last school from a Power Five conference to come to Fargo was Texas Tech in 2016.
The Pac-12 Conference Bears are 6-0 after winning tournaments at Colorado State and UC-Irvine. Wisconsin-Green Bay and the University of Buffalo (N.Y.) are the other two teams in the tourney.
“Last season we didn’t have a home tournament so we’re all pretty jacked up,” Abbi said. “Hosting Cal Berkeley, the fieldhouse is going to be full and we’re ramping it up.”
Spoken like a true Klos.
Abbi’s road to NDSU probably began early in her high school career when she made a conscious decision to move from outside hitter to libero. At 5-foot-6, it better fit her long-term plans.
“She talked to her coach and she wanted to play college volleyball,” said Kathy, a former coach herself. “That’s when the libero position was just coming around. She said to her coach that’s what she wanted to do and I think she feels the libero position is extremely important.”
Kathy started at NDSU as an outside hitter and switched to middle hitter her last three years. She was counted on to score. As a running back, Hank was one of the few players on a football team to carry the ball. He was counted on to score.
Abbi’s defensive specialist position carries a different mindset than what her parents had at NDSU.
“She wants to win,” Kathy said. “She’ll do whatever it takes, whatever she has to do.”
Spoken like a true Klos.
It’s been a process. Abbi redshirted in 2015, saw limited action in her freshman season in 2016 before turning it on in her sophomore year. The team has been hot and cold going 14-18 in 2016, 19-9 in 2017 before slipping to 9-20 last season.
As one of the older players and leaders, “It’s had its ups and downs,” Abbi said, “but the girls make it really easy. Leading them has been a privilege for me.”
And likewise for her parents watching their kids on the court and the track.
“It’s the end of your kids playing college sports, which we really enjoyed,” Kathy said. “Now it will be time to find somebody else’s kid to focus on and watch. I’ve thought about it. Next fall, we’ll go to Fargo and go to football games and volleyball matches but it won’t be the total road package like it is now.”
For the record, it’s 395 miles from La Crosse to Fargo.