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It's like old times for Olstad sisters

By Pat Ruff

The Post-Bulletin

It was an eager arrival two falls ago for former Elgin-Millville High School basketball star Candace Olstad. She was landing at Concordia University in St. Paul. As much as she got out of her years at E-M, including winning a state basketball championship her senior year, she was ready for change.

Well, fairly ready. There was one adjustment that Olstad didn’t eagerly await. That was getting along in life — on and off the basketball court — without younger sister and best friend Kali Olstad.

Good thing for Candace, that adjustment period was short. After graduating from Elgin-Millville last spring, Kali — as most figured she would — joined Candace on the St. Paul campus this fall. At Concordia, they are classmates, roommates and teammates.

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As much as both profess to have enjoyed their year away from each other, they admit that being reconnected is infinitely better.

Nowhere is that any more true than on the basketball floor at Concordia, where the 6-foot Candace is a starting forward and the 6-1 Kali is the first guard off the bench.

"I still had a good season last year at (Elgin-Millville), but it was not the same not having Candace out there with me," said Kali, whose Watchmen teams were coached by their father, Clark Olstad.

Same thing with Candace. There was nothing wrong with the season that she put up a year ago, actually sliding into the Concordia starting lineup midway through. But if she had a tranquility and happiness meter, it would go up every time she and Kali were on the basketball floor together this season.

For Candace, when Kali arrived at Concordia this fall, it was as if she’d literally brought a piece of home with her.

"I had fun last year, but it was not as much fun without Kali," Candace said. "We are best friends, and we play better when the other one is on the court. I just feel more comfortable when she is out there. It’s like a piece of home for me, a piece of high school."

A package deal

Concordia coach Paul Fessler knew what he was doing. When he recruited Candace as a high school senior, he did it realizing that he had a great chance of landing not just one Elgin-Millville star, but two.

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This, he was virtually certain, was going to be a package deal. Only he’d have to wait one year to make it such, with the Olstad sisters one year apart.

"When Candace signed with us they talked about wanting to play together," Fessler said. "It wasn’t a sure thing, but it was about as close to one as you can get."

So far, Fessler has found lots to like about this Elgin-Millville package.

Candace, like Kali a standout student, is averaging 10 points and 4.4 rebounds for the 13-8 Golden Bears, while shooting a lofty 49 percent from the field. She says her biggest adjustment has been the rugged inside play at the college level, but is getting there thanks to ample time spent in the weight room.

Kali, who missed 10 games early in the season with a stress fracture in her left foot, is averaging seven points and two rebounds, though is shooting just 32 percent from the field. Her specialty is 3-point shooting, but has struggled a bit there, at 31 percent accuracy.

The Olstads have taken turns being the hero against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference rival Minnesota State Moorhead, which is tied with Concordia for the league lead. On Dec. 2, Candace hit a shot from nine feet in the final seconds to down the Dragons, and on Jan. 27 Kali beat Moorhead at the buzzer, draining a 10-footer.

Meanwhile, as the Olstads adjust to the college game, their father, Clark, is making adjustments of his own. For the first time in 16 years, he isn’t coaching. Though he admits to missing it, and believes coaching will be in his future, the extra time has gone to good use.

There has been lots of basketball to watch, with sons Cole and Clay playing for the Plainview-Elgin-Millville team, and Candace and Kali at Concordia.

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Clark and wife Shannon are staples at Concordia home games. Clark is pleased that his daughters picked the St. Paul school, for everyone’s sake.

"It’s great; it’s just 11⁄2 hours to get there for a basketball game," he said. "It’s far enough for them, and close enough for us."

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