Gering’s Zoee Smith and Kiana Island signed to continue their playing days at the collegiate levels, following in the footsteps of their parents.
Smith made it official she will become a Cowpoke after inking with the University of Wyoming to play volleyball. Her mother, Crystal, played volleyball for Wyoming as well.
Island is headed north to Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, to continue her softball career. Island, who was a four-year varsity player for the Bulldogs, will be attending the same school that her father, Bell, attended and wrestled.
Smith inks with Wyoming
Zoee Smith has had an outstanding career as the Gering libero, registering over 1,500 kills for her career.
It is that volleyball tenacity that led Smith to pursue her dream of playing college volleyball. This summer, Smith verbally committed to play at the University of Wyoming and on Wednesday, she made it official, signing her letter of intent.
“It definitely is something I worked for my whole life. It is something I jumped on since I was a little kid. It is a big dream coming true,” Smith said. “When I was up there for the camps and everything, I just loved the coaching staff and the team. They were just personable, and I got a long with them really well. I loved the campus and I loved the school, so it was a pretty easy decision for me.”
Smith follows in the footsteps of her mother, Crystal, who also played at Wyoming. Crystal said, however, that because of coaching changes, she didn’t stay with the team and now she is regretting it.
For Smith, that shouldn’t be a problem since she already knows the team members, including Alliance’s Emerson Cyza, who is a freshman on the team this year. Smith said that Cyza has been keeping in contact with her and keeping her excitement for next year.
When Smith gets to Wyoming, she will definitely be a defensive specialist or libero, something that she has grown to love.
“After my freshman year when they moved me to a defensive specialist, I realized that diving and digging a ball that was coming way too fast was probably the best thing for me because I loved it,” she said. “Just becoming a libero has been a great experience for me. I just embrace the fact that it is a challenge and just ran with it.”
Her four years on the Gering program has been memorable. While Gering didn’t win any district titles, they competed. The biggest thing was they had fun and made memories. Smith would trade any of that.
“It has been the time of my life so far,” Smith said. “I love the teams that I have played for throughout all of my years. From my freshman to senior years, every team has been special. Every season we went into the season with the mentality that we want to be the best we can for each other. It has just been a supportive environment that we all have strived on.”
She even bleeds blue and gold and that will never change.
“My mom and brother [Zach] both went to Gering so it just has always been in my blood,” Smith said. “It is always something I felt really prideful about. This time at Gering has been something I will never forget. I am thankful for all the things that have happened here. “
While she is set to play volleyball in college, she still has tennis in the spring and she is hoping to finish her Bulldog athletic career off on a good note.
“Tennis grew on me really fast, but volleyball always has been the number one thing for me,” she said. “Hopefully, I will make the top four at state and I want do better than fifth. I also want to top Bobbi Claflin’s 36-win mark.”
Smith is planning to major in secondary education and be a German teacher.
Island heading north for softball
Kiana Island has played for the Gering softball team for the past four years, mainly playing first base until last year when she was on the hot corner of third base.
Now, after leading the Gering softball team to the district finals, Island will continue her playing at the next level, signing with Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Island will be following in her dad’s footsteps of playing sports at Hamline, where Bell was a wrestler for the Pipers.
“My dad went to Hamline and he wrestled there. I wasn’t really thinking about the school and then I thought I will give it a shot and see what coach says,” Island said. “The coach started emailing back and came to visit me and I really liked him. He was an amazing guy. When I went up to visit, the team accepted me and had a lot of fun.”
Island’s hard work on the diamond has paid off to a NCAA Division III program that were runner-up last spring. This fall they won all six of their fall ball games, including two Division I teams.
Island said it is a dream come true to be playing softball in college.
“It is a blessing because not everybody continues their game and because I get to is really amazing,” she said. “I worked just as hard as some of the other girls. Softball is a game that I love and would play the rest of my life if I could.”
Island had an outstanding senior season, batting .405 with 27 runs scored, 33 RBIs, 34 hits, nine doubles and nine home runs.
Gering coach Tim Gonzales said Island has been a hard worker for his team and there is not doubt that will continue at Hamline.
“Kiana has always been a hard worker and probably the last three years she has been nonstop,” he said. “I can always expect a text or call saying, ‘let’s hit, let’s hit.’ Right after districts she was can we hit. She has played through injuries and has been one of those girls that we can go to. She had a .420 career average which is pretty good. I am excited to see what she does at the next level.”
Island said her time at Gering has been special and interesting.
“It definitely an adventure playing for Tim because you never know what is going on,” she said. “I think it has prepared me to be ready because I never know what is going on. Playing with my girls on my team has been awesome. They are always there for me no matter what. They always give that positive energy for me no matter if I am down and they lift me back up.”
The hardest thing for her during her time came after they lost the district finals and she had to take her uniform off and ride the bus with her teammates for the final time.
“It didn’t feel real. I took it off like any other game on the bus after the game,” she said. “Then, on the right home when I was taking the last bus ride with my team, it was kind of weird and sad that I would never get to ride with these girls again and play with them ever again.”
While she is finished with her softball career at Gering, she is still planning on playing soccer in the spring. After that, it will be time to don the maroon of the Hamline Pipers.
Island is planning on majoring in human biology and be a physical therapist.