STEPHENS CITY -- After having to give up gymnastics, Reagan Newhouse was looking for a new sport when she decided to give volleyball a try.
Three years later, the Sherando senior is hitting her stride with the sport and making an impact on the Warriors’ squad.
Sherando volleyball coach James Minney said he’s amazed at how far Newhouse has come with the sport.
“She’s probably by far the most improved player I’ve ever had from her sophomore year to her senior year,” Minney said. “I’ve never seen anybody go from where she was to where she is now that fast. She is really leaps and bounds better. It’s just been tremendous.”
Newhouse said that she really struggled with volleyball her first two years doing the sport, playing on the junior varsity squad.
“I was not good at volleyball when I started,” Newhouse said. “I wanted to quit a lot because I was just not good at it. I didn’t think I would get better at it.”
Minney said he could remember one time where she went up for a block and was off balance and fell into a full split.
“I don’t even know of anybody that can do that,” Minney said. “She dropped down into a full split. And I’m just laughing.”
Newhouse said she joined a club volleyball team and began working and focusing on getting better and gradually saw improvement.
She moved up to varsity last season and had a solid year. She finished the season with 137 kills. Newhouse said coming from junior varsity to varsity was a big adjustment.
“It was so much more fast-paced than I was used to at junior varsity,” Newhouse said. “You have to adapt to the game a lot quicker and be able to learn,. You have to be so much smarter to play at the varsity level because you have to know what the other team’s doing and be able to hit the ball in a smart place.”
This season Newhouse’s game has gone up yet another level. Newhouse has 108 kills, 14 blocks and 17 digs for the Warriors.
She said she worked hard in the offseason, including lifting weights and running, to get stronger and better at the sport.
“Every day I had it in my mind that I wanted to be better, because I knew how bad I was at times and I knew I wanted to get better,” Newhouse said. “So I knew I had to be stronger in order to do that.”
Minney said that her coordination has really kicked in and she’s a much more efficient hitter. He said that her background in gymnastics probably helps.
“She has a very good control over her body, over her legs and her arms,” Minney said. “For the longest time we called her ‘gumby’ because she was so flexible, it was just like rubber bands. I’m assuming that since she jumps so well that there had to have been some correlation with gymnastics and tumbling and jumping, because it’s incredible how high she jumps. She gets up high. She’s hitting over a lot of the blockers and doesn’t get blocked very often.”
While she now loves volleyball, Newhouse said gymnastics is still an important part of her life. She said she began doing gymnastics at an early age and stayed with it until her eighth grade year.
“It was an all-around sport,” Newhouse said. “You had to be strong. You had to be graceful. You had to be smart. I liked the work ethic involved in gymnastics. There were so many hours put into it.”
Newhouse said she did gymnastics with Shenandoah Tumblers, located in Winchester, for many years. Newhouse is still involved with Shenandoah Tumblers as a recreational instructor/dance choreographer.
The 5-foot-9 Newhouse said that she had to give up participating in the sport due to injuries, which in part came from a growth spurt.
“I love it so much,” Newhouse said. “I did it for so long that I don’t know how I couldn’t love it. It was such a huge part of my life. I spent so much of my time thinking about it and doing it and when I quit it was definitely a big transition for me. I remember some of the first times that I came to (volleyball) open gyms here (at Sherando) and being upset and missing it a lot. And it would be hard for me to think that this was the right decision because I wasn’t good at this and I was good at gymnastics.”
Newhouse said now she knows she made the right decision and she’s proud of how far she’s come in volleyball.
She said her biggest accomplishment in gymnastics was being given the leadership award for the Shenandoah Tumblers end of season awards.
“The year before I quit I got the leadership award and so I was kind of like the team leader,” Newhouse said. “And that was a really big deal for me, because I was one of the older girls. I’d grown up in that gym and there was a lot of younger girls that I knew looked up to me. And it felt good to have that recognized and know that those girls saw me as a leader.”
Those leadership qualities in gymnastics help her in volleyball as well. Minney said that she’s more of a quiet leader, but she does a good job of leading by example.
Newhouse said her favorite part of volleyball is getting kills and she loves the fact that the whole team has to work together to make a kill happen.
“You feel so powerful and you feel strong,” Newhouse said. “I love when I get a kill, I just get so excited for my setter because they don’t always get the recognition. But I know it’s important for them to see you succeed because they’re a part of that. ...I love having a team behind you and every ball that I hit comes from somebody’s pass and somebody’s set. You can’t do it on your own and you have to give credit to the people behind you.”
The Warriors are 10-8 with a young squad. Newhouse is one of only three seniors on the team with seven sophomores and three juniors.
“I think we’re doing really well,” Newhouse said. “There’s a lot of sophomores on the team, we’re really young. So I know that even after I leave they have so much to offer in the future and right now it’s really just about them growing together and becoming better players together and getting used to being together. There’s definitely been ups and downs but we’re doing really well and we got along really well.”
Newhouse and the Warriors host Liberty tonight on Sherando’s senior night. Newhouse said that she recently was crying in her English class during school just thinking about her last volleyball season almost being over.
Newhouse said she might play club volleyball in college and she will continue to help out at Shenandoah Tumblers, working with the younger kids. She said she isn’t ready to give up either of the sports that she loves so much.
For the rest of Sherando’s volleyball season, Newhouse said that she just wants the team to keep improving.
“Hopefully, we can play into the postseason and do well,” she said. “I just want us to finish strong together. And nobody end the season upset with somebody else and everyone be happy with the way we performed.”