London ball

London’s new volleyball team have a passion for the game and a love for each other

NEW LONDON — On paper, New London High School’s volleyball team looks like an average, unremarkable, middle-of-the-road team.

The Tigers’ tallest player is 5-foot-10. Their top outside hitter, senior Natalie Burden, is just 5-8 and their two senior specialists – senior libero Emma Nye and senior setter Elly Manning – are just 5-3 and 5-2, respectively.

But there is no way to measure the heart of the Tigers. There is no way to measure the will and the determination of the players on each point. There’s no way to measure this group of gamers’ passion for the game, the love they have for each other, the pride they have in their school and community.

When using these standards, the New London High School volleyball team does not give way to anyone. The Tigers may be ranked 14th in Class 1A, but they are No. 1 in the hearts of their fans.

“We play so much better with our fans there. They help lift our spirits and encourage us,” said central striker Carmyn Lair.

“Volleyball has been a big part of our community for a long time. I just want to continue that tradition,” said New London freshman volleyball coach Jackie Housman, a 2006 New London graduate. to be able to pump them all day. Our boys section is absolutely amazing. They come to every game. They’re loud. They’re proud. It’s a fun thing to support and push them all day and make them understand we’re a different team when you’re there and cheering us on, and that support really means everything to us.

West Burlington's Lauren Glasgow (5) defends the net against New London's Natalie Burden (19) at West Burlington on Thursday.

A special senior class

This year’s group of senior debutants – Burden, Nye, Manning and Lair – have been best friends since kindergarten.

Incidentally, Burden and Manning make it back to the cradle, before either can walk or talk.

“I think when I was six months old, Elly’s mom kept me. We go a long way back,” Burden said.

This year’s group of seniors is a tight-knit group. Find one and the other three are probably nearby.

“We’ve been best friends since elementary school. We’ve never been apart. It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Manning, who averages 3.5 digs and 9.1 assists per set. “A lot of people can’t go to high school or even college with the same group of people. So to be able to see how far we’ve come. When we started we couldn’t even get our service on the net and now we “We’re competing for a spot in the state tournament. Just being able to have friends there along the way that I love and care about is truly the best.”

From sleepovers to car trips to trips to the mall, seniors are always together. And when one is down, the others are theirs to recover.

That’s what best friends do.

“We went to the Ozarks together. We went on road trips together. Every weekend outside of volleyball or volleyball, we’re together. It doesn’t matter,” Manning said.

“We like going for food, going to the mall, teenage stuff,” Lair said.

“Just hanging out with each other. It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we’re together,” Burden said. “I don’t know what I would do without them. We are all very close. It also helps us on the pitch.”

New London senior Emma Nye had 23 digs as New London, ranked 15th in Class 1A, knocked out the eighth-ranked Holy Trinity on Thursday at Shottenkirk Gymnasium in Fort Madison.

Lay it on the line, leave it on the pitch

This year’s New London team is very selfless. There really is no “I” in New London. It’s all in the team. It doesn’t matter who does what or how they get a point, as long as they give it their all. And they support each other at all times.

The Tigers are averaging 46.7 digs per set. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the state, and that doesn’t just happen by chance or coincidence. They work hard to play defense. They are proud of it. None of them want to see the ball hit the court on their side of the net.


“We want to win and every point goes towards that goal. Every night you have a new goal. Every ball is part of that goal,” said Nye, who averages 6.5 digs per set. “You have to focus on being in your place. Most of the time, if you’re in your place doing what you’re supposed to do, the ball will go up in the air.”

“We’re finding a way to push things forward that no one thought we could dig up,” Lair said.

“We’re all very competitive and we all want to win every game,” Manning said. “We give 100 per cent and that’s what I like. You’ll see people diving in the stands, diving through the chairs, doing whatever they can to get the ball over the net. “

“Elly dives on every other play,” Burden said.

“I really like what stands out in them,” Housman said. “I don’t know if it was exactly there last year. It’s a huge thing with my training. I really push to play until the very end. You don’t know what you can do. Try at the least. I want you to try for everything. We go through a lot. The game isn’t over until it’s over.”

New London head coach Jackie Housman celebrates as does Camryn Lair (25) against West Burlington on Thursday at West Burlington.

Three seasons, three coaches

This year’s group of seniors have played for three different coaches over the past three years.

Maureen Heath coached them through their freshman and sophomore years, helping them reach the state tournament two years ago.

When Heath left to coach volleyball at West Burlington, her assistant coach, Lindsey Johnson, became head coach last year.

When Johnson left to take the volleyball coaching job in Burlington, it opened the door for Housman to return to her alma mater.

Housman became the team’s emotional leader. She ignites the team as much by her actions as by her words. She plays every point from the sideline. She lives and dies with every stitch. That’s who she is.

“I always felt like something was missing. I coached a few other places and I feel like everything fell into place here,” Housman said. “That’s where I always really wanted to be. There’s just something different about training in the same place where you go all your references.”

“Jackie has been so good to us this year and given us an environment that we’ve thrived in,” Manning said. “She’s intense. I love it because we’re super excited. She’s excited for us and that really cheers us up. She’s helped us feel so confident.”

“We learned that to win we have to have energy and fire up,” Lair said. “She’s so excited. It helps us get excited. Our student section is always pumped up and excited too. It’s always good.”

“Every game she’s there with us,” Nye said. “Jackie is definitely encouraging. She wants the best for us. She wants us to go as far as possible. She wants us to have a positive experience.”

“I’m hitting better this year,” Burden said. “She gave me a lot of advice on the serve and she also gives me a lot of advice on how to correct typing errors.”

New London's Elly Manning hits the ball in the Tigers' win over Moravia.

More work to do, more memories to make

New London will celebrate Senior Night Tuesday with a game against Danville.

The Tigers open regional play Monday with a home game against Hillcrest Academy.

New London is that scrappy bunch that every team cringes when they see them in their slice.

The Tigers are ready to make a few more memories together on the volleyball court.

“The thing I think we have on everyone is team chemistry,” Manning said. “You see a lot of teams and it’s like, ‘We don’t have someone who is 6-1 and is going to hit the ball straight.’ We have a group of girls who can play together and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and play together and that’s how we compete against these high caliber teams.

“It’s one of the best teams we’ve had. I like the team and I like the coach,” Lair said. “No one really has their eyes on us, but we always find a way to win.”

“I’m very happy with how we’ve done this season. I think we’re all playing very well together,” Burden said. “I thought we would have a bit of a hard time losing a college player, but we did pretty well.”

“I feel like this group of girls work so well together. They all fit together so well. They’ve been playing together for so long,” Housman said. “They are completely comfortable with each other. They trust each other. They know when the other person is going to get the ball back. It’s hard to coach and teach that. It’s just something that comes with four phenomenal seniors who have played together for years and years and years.”

Matt Levins is a sports reporter for the USA Today Network in Burlington, Iowa, who covered local sports for 32 years at The Hawk Eye. Contact him at [email protected]