Former Bulldogs Newman, Spreier lead West to volleyball victory
     2015-06-18      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen - Leah Newman of Gering (red shirt) defends against a kill attempt while teammates Emily Jensen (No. 21) of Alliance and Kaylee Spreier of Gering eye the action during Saturday’s All Star Volleyball game. The West took the 31st annual match, clinching the victory in the first four sets 25-20, 23-25, 25-16, 25-21 
SCOTTSBLUFF — For about four years, recent Gering graduate Leah Newman sat in the stands for the West Nebraska All-Star Volleyball Match, with the dream of one day taking the court for the West All-Stars at Western Nebraska Community College’s Cougar Palace.
Newman made that dream of turning spectator since the seventh grade into reality of senior player on Saturday, joining fellow Gering graduate Kaylee Spreier and several former opponents who will now become college teammates in leading the West to its first victory in three years.

The West took the 31st annual match, clinching the victory in the first four sets 25-20, 23-25, 25-16, 25-21 before the East finished out the match with a 15-9 win in the final game.

“My mom (Amy) started assistant coaching in Morrill, so it’s just always been a love for the game that my mom and I have shared,” Newman said. “It’s something we’ve always gone to, and we’ve known a lot of girls in it from the community.”
Newman turned in a performance by doing what she did best in high school, recording a match-high 25 digs to go along with two service points. For Gering, the 5-foot-7 Newman was the Bulldogs’ top defender last fall with 337 digs, and she was second in serve receiving with 339.
“To be able to play in my last high school game, I gave it my all,” said Newman, who as a Gering senior also had 79 kills on the season, scored 160 service points with 22 aces, had 10 blocks with four solo efforts.
Newman earned all-Western Conference honors and helped the District B-8 champion Bulldogs make the Class B sub-state playoffs for the second straight year.

“It was awesome, probably one of my favorite games I can ever say of all time,” Newman said of the All-Star match. “Normally I don’t play libero, but I kind of played libero during this whole week and it was pretty awesome.”

She will be part of a rebuilding program at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, which went just 6-31 last fall under first-year coach Julie Sherbeyn.
Even in an exhibition match, Newman said pre-match jitters set in.
“The whole day on Saturday, the tension was building up,” Newman said of the similarities she felt in preparing for the exhibition match. “I was getting a little bit nervous during the pregame. Once the game started going, I really didn’t realize anything other than it being a game.”

Spreier, had 12 service points, four aces, eight digs and five kills. Her future teammate at WNCC, Kennedy Cyza of Alliance, earned Most Valuable Player honors for the West after she scored 13 kills, four digs and three service points.

“Kaylee and I were the only two girls from here (Scottsbluff/Gering) who got to play,” Newman said. “People were asking where we were from and I said, ‘Here, from Scottsbluff/Gering, Nebraska. It was pretty awesome to show that we have talent on this side of Nebraska.
“I’ve always liked playing with Kaylee. We’ve been really close friends,” Newman said. “It was a good game to play with her for the last time. It’s going to be a big change for me to see her on the other side of the net. But I’m glad we got to play in the game together.”

Newman will have another former Alliance Bulldog as a teammate at EWC in Precious Williams, who had nine digs, seven kills and four points.
Two other EWC-bound West players, Mitchell graduates McKenna Zulkoski and Kady Lower, had solid performances. Zulkoski followed Newman in digs with 10 and added two points, while Lower scored five points and had three kills.

“I’ve got to play with them just in open gyms, but after Saturday’s match, I can definitely tell that EWC is going to have a pretty good season,” Newman said. “Maybe not in wins, but I can tell that there’s already a bond between us girls.”

Both Lower and Zulkoski were at Cougar Palace for the second straight week, having played in the Panhandle Prep All-Star Girls’ Basketball Game. The same was the case for Chellani Parriott of Bayard, who also scored 10 digs along with four kills and four points.

Alliance setter Emily Jensen gave the Bulldogs a sweep of the West’s individual awards, selected by her teammates as the Sportsmanship Award winner. Jensen’s athletic leadership was solid a well, making 38 set assists and 16 digs while scoring 11 service points.
Newman offered her appreciation to Gering coach Dave Lashley, who took over the Bulldogs’ program last season, for nominating her for the All-Star match.
Lashley, a longtime official and member of the West Nebraska All-Star board, has long been the statistics keeper for the match as well.
“I know he has helped out with the All-Star match a lot,” Newman said of Lashley. “I really appreciate what he has done for me.”

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