Newell VB on the rise

Newell’s Lexa Burtzlaff attempts an attack during a varsity volleyball match last season. Burtzlaff and her Irrigators’ teammates finished 16-11. Courtesy photo

NEWELL — Newell’s volleyball program continued to improve during the 2020 season under head coach Tysha McDonald.

The Lady Irrigators fished the season 16-11 after finishing 7-21 in 2018, and 12-13 in 2019.

“We’ve really come a long way in the three years that they started the program,” said McDonald, who completed her third season here.

McDonald said she was pleasantly surprised with how the Newell has been able to fare well against high-level opponents.

McDonald said athletic ability and skill were the team’s strong suits.

“Their ability to push hard, even when they’re down, is really amazing and hard to find in high school girls,” McDonald said.  

She added the team’s youth and not really playing in a lot of high-stakes matches going into this season was a concern

The Lady Irrigators outlasted Lead-Deadwood three games to two to open their season. A three-games-to-one win over Hulett squared Newell’s record at 2-2.

Newell put together winning streaks of two, three, two, and two matches to close out the regular season.

A three-game sweep of Faith enabled Newell to finish 15-10 in the regular season and bring the No. 3 seed at the Region 8B tournament.

McDonald cited that Faith match as a season highlight.

“That’s kind of always been a speed bump for us,” she said.

Following a first-round tournament bye, Newell swept Bison in three games. Faith then topped Newell in three games to end Newell’s season at 16-11.

Two seniors (middle hitter Kayden Steele and outside hitter Lexa Burtzlaff) played the sport this season for the first time since middle school.

“They displayed raw talent, and some younger players improved areas like spot serving and spot hitting,” McDonald said

Newell reached the championship round of every regular-season tournament they played in except the first.

Ninth-graders Kimberly Johnson (defensive specialist) and Jaelyn Wendt (middle hitter) improved considerably throughout the season, McDonald said.

Kassidy Weeldreyer, McKaylee Mahaffy, Steele, and Burtzlaff represented the senior class.

“They are very natural leaders,” McDonald said in describing those seniors.

McDonald said the future of the Newell volleyball program looks bright.

“We’ve got good talent coming in, good girls for the next four years,” said McDonald. “The middle school already has a good program.”

McDonald credits the players’ mentality for the program’s progress over the last few years. She said players perform competitively, and Newell does not mean an easy victory.

Newell’s progress fits in line with books McDonald has read on starting a new program. She said she has seen the third-year progress outlined in those manuals.

“To watch those girls learn and have love for the game, just like you grew up having, is just amazing,” McDonald said.

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