Cal Poly Pomona volleyball standout Allie Newman admits being happy that she wasn’t given much of a warning when called on in a critical match late last season. She had just finished warmups and thought she would be taking a seat at the end of the bench like she had for the duration of the season. But then-assistant coach Vinh Nyugen informed her she would be starting.
“I’m glad they didn’t tell me before or I would have had way too much time to get nervous,” Newman said. “It was better I didn’t have time to think about it.”
The 5-foot-11 middle blocker delivered 13 kills and 11 block assists, helping the Broncos to a school-record 40 block assists in a five-game upset of nationally ranked UC San Diego.
She also tallied eight kills and 10 block assists in a Pacific Regional semifinal loss to Cal State Los Angeles.
Her showing at the end of the season has set her up for more significant playing time this year, especially with the departure of two other middle blockers — most notably All-American Antoinette Kathol.
The Broncos open the new season with four matches in Hawaii, the first coming Thursday against Chaminade.
The court time has been a long time coming for the former Redlands East Valley High School and San Bernardino Valley College standout.
“We always knew she could play,” veteran Broncos coach Rosie Wegrich said. “It was just a matter of when she would get that chance. She had worked very hard in practice and deserved that opportunity. We’re looking forward to bigger things from her this season.”
Newman, now 22, has been a later bloomer. She didn’t play until her sophomore season in high school after her family moved to Southern California from Pullman, Wash.
“It was my mom and dad that encouraged me to play,” she recalled. “We had just moved and they thought it would be a good way to make friends because all the girls on the team seemed nice.”
She spent her sophomore year on the junior varsity just learning the basics. She followed that up with two years on the varsity. The idea of playing for a four-year school was appealing but she wasn’t quite ready. So she opted for SBVC, then coached by current athletic director Dave Rubio.
Newman was a quick study, earning All-Foothill Conference honors both years there, highlighted by a Most Valuable Player selection in 2004.
“She has a great work ethic and she has athletic ability,” Rubio said. “She just needs time to develop. It was the experience and technique, especially her footwork, that were lacking.”
The decision on a four-year school was even more of a challenge. The most obvious choice would have been Cal State San Bernardino, Cal Poly’s conference rival. Not only does it boast great tradition in the sport but her father, Eric, is a marketing instructor there.
But that’s exactly why she chose not to go there.
“I wanted to make my own name somewhere else,” she said.
Newman actually recruited the Broncos more than they recruited her. She sent Wegrich a letter and the veteran coach invited her to a tryout which several of Newman’s SBVC teammates also attended.
But it hasn’t been easy. Newman redshirted her first season because of an elbow injury that later healed without surgery. It turned out being a blessing in disguise.
“I learned a lot by watching,” she said. “I don’t think I would be playing today if I didn’t have that year to watch and learn. And I appreciate playing a lot more now.”
She played in 16 matches (39 games total), including the two pivotal ones at the end of the season, totaling 48 kills and 30 total blocks.
She has lofty goals for her final go-round including winning a conference title and dethroning the juggernaut that is Cal State.
“This is it. I want to make it a great year,” said Newman, who would like to go into sports marketing. “We have some great new players that have fit right in so I think we can do it.”