Volleyball all-stars preparing for weekend clash

Bayard’s Kylie Stuart dives to make a play on the ball during a practice for the West Nebraska All-Star volleyball game. 

Bayard’s Kylie Stuart thought her all-star game experience was over for the summer after playing in the Panhandle Prep all-star game last Saturday.

But things changed Wednesday morning. The recent Bayard graduate was relaxing at home when she got the call about an hour before the West was scheduled to practice asking if she wanted to play in the all-star volleyball game.

Stuart didn’t hesitate in saying yes.

Stuart is taking the place of Scottsbluff graduate Makenzie Dunkel and she is ready to step onto the court to play with players she played against during her high school career.

“It means a lot to play one more game in the Panhandle,” Stuart said. “I didn’t think I would have this opportunity so when I got the phone call I was really excited. I get to play in Cougar Palace one more time so I am really excited.”

Stuart, who is headed to Nebraska Wesleyan to play volleyball, is looking forward to playing one more time in the Panhandle as she will use the all-star game as a stepping stone to the college level.

“This will be good to see where I am at and what I need to do before I go to college,” Stuart said. “It will be nice to play to see where I am at this summer to prepare for next year.”

It will be Stuart’s second all-star game within a week. She also suited up in the all-star basketball game last Saturday at Cougar Palace that saw the Red come back to beat the Blue team 100-90.

“It is a totally new lineup so to totally meet a new lineup is awesome,” she said. “To be able to play in both all-star games is an honor. I didn’t think I would even play in even one so to play in both is exciting.”

Hemingford’s Lauren Gasseling, Mitchell’s Keyana Wilfred and Anabelle Gillen, and Sidney’s Katelyn Sylvester also participated in the all-star basketball game.

While several players will continue playing in college, Gasseling is one of those players that will wrap up her athletic career this weekend. Gasseling is set to attend Black Hills State University, focusing on academics.

“It will be hard to take off the uniform for the final time,” she said. “Sports has been the majority of my life, so it will be crazy finishing that up.”

But Gasseling gets to focus in playing one last time.

“It means a lot to me,” she said. “It is a way for us all to get together and have one big final game through all the hard work we put in during the four years of high school.”

Gillen’s take on the all-star game will be a little different from the rest. The match on Saturday will be the first of many that Gillen will be playing in at Cougar Palace since the Mitchell setter signed to play volleyball for Western Nebraska Community College. She is looking forward to playing on the court for the next year.

“It is really nice getting to play a game on here and then next year I will be here most every day,” Gillen said. “Knowing that I will be close to home and have my family here.

Gillen said playing in the all-star game is special.

“It means the world to me,” she said. “Knowing that I played against these girls for all these years and now to be able to play with them.”

Overall, the all-stars are anxious to get going and believe there is a good mixture of talent on the team.

“We have a lot of talented players out here,” Stuart said. “So to be able to play with them and then against the East will be pretty crazy. I am just looking to have fun and just play my game.”

Gasseling is also excited to see what the talent is like. Gasseling is especially excited to be playing with instead of against Alliance’s Emerson Cyza, who is signed to play volleyball at the University of Wyoming next year.

“We have a lot of good talent,” the Hemingford graduate said. “We have a lot of big girls and they are a lot of fun. We are all here to compete hard so I am excited about it.”

The 35th edition West Nebraska All-star game is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at WNCC’s Cougar Palace. Last year the West came back from a 2-0 deficit to top the East in five sets 13-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-12, 15-13. The West has now won four of the last five meetings and 11 of the last 13.

West Roster

Anabelle Gillen and Keyena Wilfred, Mitchell; Lauren Gasseling, Hemingford; Lily Fair and Mackenzie Anderson, Ogallala; Carstyn Hageman, Chadron; Emersen Cyza, Alliance; Payton Jung and Katelyn Sylvester, Sidney; Erica Hopping, Sutherland; Channing Holm, and Emily Barr, Hershey; and Kylie Stuart, Bayard.

West Coaches: Jodi Craig, Leyton, and Blakelee Hoffman, Chadron.

East Roster

Hayley Homan, North Platte St. Pats; Alysen Daniels and Courtney Rice, Mullen; Abbie Hedgecock, North Platte; Jayceea Hanson, McCook; Kaelie Tomlin, Cambridge; Alley Beisner and McKayla Meyer, Loomis; Sydnee Sallach and Adrianna Hild, South Loup; Macy Widick, Brady; Addison Johnson, Cody-Kilgore; and Allison Bauer, Elm Creek.

East Coaches: Belinda Coble, Mullen, and Randi Atkins, South Loup.