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Heydman, Nickel, Eslick repeat All-Area VB honors

Published 11/28/2013

By KEVIN THOMPSON

sports@gctelegram.com

At 5-9, Haley Heydman of Holcomb isn't the tallest volleyball player around.

But with a 26-inch vertical, the Longhorns' senior often fools people into thinking she's much taller.

Or maybe it's the explosiveness that cowers many an opponent that grabs people's attention.

Those are some of the reasons she was named The Telegram's All-Area Volleyball Player-of-the-Year.

Heydman, a middle hitter, started varsity all four years at Holcomb, and she was named first team all-league and first team all-area the past three seasons, as well as being nominated to all-state the past two years.

Holcomb has finished as sub-state runners-up the past two seasons, compiling a 59-16 record. In that span, Heydman has 693 kills (1,056 overall), 90 aces (59 this season) and 215 blocks (131 this year).

Heydman said this year's team had a good core of returners, making a good fit for everyone. Though they struggled early, the chemistry worked and they played well together.

"We had the coaching, but the girls in general have been together since we were little so we know each other," she said. "Being around each other on and off the court really helped bring the momentum and intensity to the court."

"Haley is such an explosive player. She hits the ball as hard as anyone around," said Holcomb head coach Jennifer Barrett. "Everyone notices her hitting when they walk in the gym."

Heydman attributes that explosiveness to having a lot of energy, something she has developed since she was little and looking up to her older sister Trista.

"My sister taught me a lot about what I needed to do," she said of starting out in rec programs in grade school. "And my freshman year, I found out I was on varsity. It's a lot faster and more intense with harder hits. I got used to that and caught on really quick. That's when I really started to like it."

That freshman year is also where she knew she wanted to play at the college level.

Her options are open, but she has looked at a few places where the volleyball program plays hard and where she can work on a dental hygiene degree.

At 5-9, Heydman feels she's short for a college program, but coaches tell her that size doesn't matter when her vertical is good and her desire to play is even better.

"That was a plus," she said. "At first I was scared I wasn't tall enough but coaches tell me I play taller."

Barrett said Heydman worked to make herself a more complete player.

"I'm really proud of Haley for the effort and hard work she has put into the other aspects of her game," she said. "She has pushed herself the past two years to become the well-rounded player she is today."

Heydman's favorite shot is the kill. When she gets the chance, she's going after it.

"My first thought is, when I see a free ball, I want it," she said. "I get that adrenaline and want to hit it even harder where they won't send a free ball any more."

But she is quick to credit teammates with making good sets and passes for setting her up.

"I give my teammates credit, especially the back row because it's so hard from there," Heydman said. "Everybody pays attention to who gets the kill, but every time I got it, I automatically turned around and told that person 'good pass' or 'a perfect set' because there's no way I would have got it without them."

But Heydman said she has worked on developing an all-around game. As a freshman, she felt she didn't pass well, so she worked that summer to get better at that.

Her serving rose to 85 percent, a mark above what coach Barrett sets to play on varsity.

Being a leader on the court, whether she was on the front or back row, helping everybody out and being an encourager is also another aspect of the game she improved, Heydman said, something that doesn't get in the score book but is key to a team's success.

"It was my goal (since ninth grade) to play college volleyball, and I knew I couldn't play just being a good hitter," she said. "I wanted to be able to play all the way around. I wanted to show the coaches my fundamentals, that I don't just go out there and hit the ball."

Haley Heydman,

5-9, Sr., Holcomb

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Favorite Athletes: Mia Hamm and Adrian Peterson.

Favorite Food: My mom's chicken noodle soup.

Favorite Class in School: Strength and Conditioning.

Person I Most Admire: My sister, Trista Schmitt.

If I Could Meet One Person, it would be: Katy Perry.

College I Plan to Attend: Anywhere I can play volleyball.

Area of Intended Study at College: Dental hygiene.

Kyann Eslick,

5-11, Jr., Ulysses

At 5-11, outside hitter Kyann Eslick saw her share of action on the floor.

The junior helped the Lady Tigers to a 26-11 season, despite missing four dates due to a sprained ankle.

The other Great West Activities Conference coaches noticed her value, naming her to the all-league first team.

Eslick was also named to the Kansas Volleyball Association all-state honorable mention team.

It was also the second straight year she missed games due to injury, sitting out part of her sophomore season with a broken finger.

But both years she returned with a vengeance, being named to The Telegram's all-area first team.

Eslick led the Tigers in a number of categories: kills (45 percent), service aces (15 percent) and digs (93 percent).

She compiled 323 kills, had 16 solo blocks and served 41 aces.

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Most Memorable Moment of the 2013 season: Winning league for the second year, going 5-0 again and not losing a set.

Favorite Athlete: Allyson Felix.

Favorite Food: Crispy chicken salad, and Mexican food.

Favorite Class in School: Weights.

Person I Most Admire: Aunt Leanna.

If I Could Meet One Person, it would be: Channing Tatum.

Favorite Pastime: Taking pictures all the time, and being with my cousins in Topeka.

Season Highlights/Honors: Winning GWAC; 1st Team GWAC.

Taylor Linenberger

5-11, Sr., Garden City

Linenberger, who is undecided about her college choice and the sport of choice, was one of the integral components of the Lady Buffaloes' team that won the Western Athletic Conference for the third straight year and finished as Class 6A sub-state runner-up, again for the third consecutive season.

"Being down and coming back in the third game to beat Hutch (6A sub-state semis), which hasn't happened in many years," was a highlight of the season, Linenberger said.

A middle hitter for first-year coach Shandra Sanders, Linenberger provided steady play for the Lady Buffs, who compiled a 25-12 season record.

She had 119 kills, third high on the team, while coming up with 30 blocks at the net, also second on the squad. She was a first-team all-WAC selection.

Linenberger is a three-sport participant at Garden City High School, competing also in basketball and track and field.

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Favorite Athlete: Mario Chalmers.

Favorite Food: Fettuccine Alfredo.

Favorite Class in School: Math.

Person I Most Admire: My mother.

If I Could Meet One Person, it would be: Channing Tatum.

Favorite Pastime: Hang out with my friends, go shopping and listening to music.

College I Plan to Attend: Undecided.

Area of Intended Study at College: Health field.

Season Highlights: Winning WAC and being named to WAC all-league first team.

Bailey Nickel

5-9, Sr., Scott City

Finding a silver lining in a difficult senior season, record-wise, Bailey Nickel turned her focus onto leading a youthful Lady Beavers' volleyball team.

So much so, that she caught the eye of opposing coaches for that leadership capability.

"Bailey did so much for her team when we saw them this year," said opposing Holcomb coach Jennifer Barrett. "She was the one that always went over to encourage her teammate after any play. I was so impressed with her. She'll go far at the next level, she's a really good player."

The Lady Beavers managed just six wins this past season, but Nickel still found the little things to focus on and things that matter.

"My most memorable moment was when we beat TMP [Hays-Thomas More Prep], and the freshmen came up to me and told me I was their role model," Nickel said.

Nickel, who also plays basketball and runs track for her high school, is headed to Hutchinson Community College to play for a Lady Blue Dragon team that qualified for the 2013 NJCAA National Championship a week ago. She will join former Hugoton standout Nicole Kinser on the HCC squad next season.

"I'm looking forward to playing with Nicole instead of against her," Nickel said while in town for The Telegram's annual photo shoot of the all-area squad. "Coach [Pat] Hall is a great coach so I'm excited about next year."

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Favorite Athlete: Diamond Dixon.

Favorite Food: Taco Bell.

Favorite Class in School: History.

Person(s) I Most Admire: Megan Gentry, Morgan Welsh, Mindi Dreiling.

If I Could Meet One Person, it would be: Marilyn Monroe.

Favorite Pastime: Watching classic movies and eating.

College I Plan to Attend: Hutchinson Community College.

Area of Intended Study: Criminal Justice.

Honors: All-tournament team at the Liberal Invitational; 2012-13 All-Great West Activities Conference 1st team; Garden City Telegram All-Area (2012-13).

Leslie Speer

5-10, Sr., Dighton

No matter the time of year, no matter the sport, it always seems like Leslie Speer has a hand in the success of the Lady Hornets of Dighton.

A talented track and field performer and a former state triple jump Class 1A champion, the fall provided Speer an opportunity to help the Lady Hornets to one of their best seasons in school history. She also competes in basketball for the Lady Hornets.

With a final record of 30-14, Speer was one of the key components to help her team to a Class 1A-Division II state runner-up finish, losing to defending champion Baileyville B&B twice in the two-day tournament at Hays.

"Getting second at state was the most memorable moment of the season," said Speer, who is undecided on where she will attend college and in what sport she plans to compete.

"Leslie is very level-headed and she gets excited sometimes, but she doesn't ever get down," said Dighton head coach Whitney Linenberger. "Her attitude is always good and she is consistent in that way."

In search of finding the right rotation for her team, Linenberger switched Speer from a setter/hitter at the start of the season to a hitter/passer, and the move paid off for the Lady Hornets.

"She is very versatile and probably is one of our best athletes," Linenberger said of Speer. "Her serves were much improved for us."

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Favorite Athlete: Serena Williams.

Favorite Food: Cheese cake.

Favorite Class in School: English.

Person I Most Admire: My mom.

If I Could Meet One Person, it would be: Michael Jordan.

Favorite Pastime: Art, cooking.

College I Plan to Attend: Undecided.

Area of Intended Study: Art Education.

Season Highlights/Honors: All-State tournament team; All-League 2nd team; All-State 2nd team, Kansas Volleyball Association.

Jamie St. Clair

5-7, Sr., Garden City

Statistics can sometimes be an overrated part of determining the value of a player to a specific sport's team.

Such may be the case with the Lady Buffs' Jamie St. Clair, who played the critical position of Libero for first-year coach Shandra Sanders.

"The value that the Libero, and in this case Jamie, brought to our team is the fact that other teams tried to serve away from her," Sanders said of St. Clair. "Jamie did a great job of moving into that position and she was so important to our success."

You won't find her among the team's leader in either kills or assists, but she did record 40 aces, third on the team, easily led the team in digs with 234 and was responsible for 161 passes, tops on the team.

Also an outstanding softball player, St. Clair plans to play that sport when she heads off to a yet-to-be-named college of choice.

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Favorite Athlete: Jennie Finch.

Favorite Food: Italian.

Favorite Class in School: English.

Person I Most Admire: My dad.

If I Could Meet One Person, it would be: Luke Bryan.

Favorite Pastime: Hang out with friends; play softball; listen to music.

College I Plan to Attend: Undecided.

Area of Intended Study: Health.

Season Highlights/Honors: Western Athletic Conference team champions; 1st team all-WAC; 1st-team Garden City Telegram All-Area.

Second Team

Kylee Amos, 5-9, Sr., Holcomb

Diamond Brown, 5-8, Sr., Dighton

Karlee Davidson, 5-7, Sr., Lakin

Hailee Hoskinson, 5-10, Sr., Cimarron

Morgan Kistler, 5-9, Sr., Ulysses

Taryn Tempel, 5-8, Sr., Garden City

Honorable Mention

Jaymie Bernbeck, Garden City; Ashtynn Burns, Cimarron; Taylor Deniston, Holcomb; Caroline Gallegos, Ulysses; Anna George, Cimarron; Maja Haney, Lakin; Erin Kuneyl, Jennifer Rehmke, Satanta; Erika Schafer, Garden City; Jacksenie Tornero, Garden City; Mariah Watkins, Lakin.

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