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Jackson volleyball’s Grace Newell signs NLI with John A. Logan CC

Earlier this school year, Jackson volleyball’s Grace Newell officially signed a national letter of intent with John A. Logan Community College to continue her playing career. Submitted photo

After a career where she won four conference and district championships with Jackson volleyball, winter graduate Grace Newell is set to continue her playing career across the river at John A. Logan Community College in Carterville, Illinois.

Newell has been a force in the Indians back row defensively for the past four years despite never being the team’s libero, which has been Division-I signee and future Southeast Missouri State Redhawk Holland Guilliams.

“Signing with John A. Logan actually really meant a lot because I was kind of an underdog — I was a little bit looked over,” Newell said. “It’s understandable because that’s the position I play in volleyball, but for their coach to recognize that I do have talent, and that I am talented enough to go to the next level made all of this feel worth it.

“All of the work I’ve put in felt like it was really completed and that it meant something. It felt good, and I absolutely love Coach [Bill] Burnside and the school has everything that I was looking for in a college. Coach Burnside is one of the nicest and most passionate people I’ve ever met in my life, so I’m really excited to go there.”

Newell is the type of player who could have been a libero for most teams in the Southeast Missouri region. In her high school career as a defensive specialist, Grace produced 601 digs and 1,076 service receptions.

“Every beginning of a season between club and school ball, switching from coaches is really difficult,” Grace said. “They’re both really amazing, but it’s difficult, and I always get in a bit of a slump with serve receive. However, the more reps you put in and the more technical training you do is how you get out of that.

“I also have a really great mom, who knows what she’s talking about and did help coach my club team. We’ll be driving home from a game or tournament, and she’ll be like, ‘So what do you think you did on serve receive?’ I’ll be like, ‘I didn’t move my feet,’” Newell joked. “She’s always really helpful.”

Along with that, Grace was also a quality server for the Indians as she never had a serve percentage lower than 91% when serving the ball more than 100 times in one season.

Newell is the fourth player from Jackson’s senior class this fall to have signed to play college volleyball. Outside of Guilliams, fellow seniors Nadia Wasilewski (D-I Wichita State) and Ella Domian (D-II Maryville) have also signed.

Newell and players like Guilliams, Wasilewski and Domian have helped Jackson not only win four-straight district and conference titles, but the Indians also compiled a record of 121-23-11 over the last four seasons.

Volleyball has been a part of Grace’s life ever since she was three-years-old and started playing with a team in third grade. While most people play multiple sports throughout their youth to decide which one they love, Newell knew from a young age that volleyball was her true love.

Growing up, Grace has played all over the court in both the front and back row at every position there is. She realized playing defense was her calling early on, though.

“Obviously I’m not the tallest, but I feel like I just found a really good fit playing defense,” Newell said. “I like how it’s fast-paced, and I really don’t have to think much. When you get a high set coming, that’s a lot of thought and timing.

“I like that I really don’t have time to think — it’s more of a reaction. I just get the ball the whole time. Serve receive is a lot to think about and that can be really, really challenging. You go through slumps and get really in your head about it, but I’ve always had good coaches who have been able to bring me out of that.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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