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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Volleyball player Callie Neumann speaks, Thursday, November 14, 2019 during a signing day rally at Bentonville High School in Bentonville. Neumann will play volleyball at Stephen F. Austin University.

BENTONVILLE -- The sport will not change much for Callie Neumann, but the location and the environment in which she will play in for the next four years will definitely be different.

The Bentonville High volleyball standout signed her national letter of intent to play at Stephen F. Austin during Thursday's ceremony in Tiger Arena. Neumann, however, will play her games in the sand instead of the gym.

Neumann signed to play beach volleyball at the Nacogdoches, Texas, university and became the first Lady Tiger to do such a thing.

"I moved here from Florida, so I originally played sand volleyball," Neumann said. "I really feel more at home in the sand. I still love indoor, but I'm more comfortable in the sand and I get to play every position. Indoor is more position-specific -- either front row or back row -- but in the sand, you play everywhere."

Neumann, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter, recorded 154 kills while helping Bentonville win the 6A-West Conference and Class 6A state titles. She also recorded 132 digs, 16 aces and 39 blocks this fall.

During the offseason, she said her father took her to Texas every weekend to play beach volleyball tournaments, where matches are two-on-two instead of six-on-six in the gym. It was at one of those tournaments where she ran into a coach from Stephen F. Austin.

"During one of the beach volleyball tours, the coaches come out and it's a time where we can meet them," Neumann said. "I ended up emailing him because I saw him watching one of my tournaments, then I went and toured the school and really liked it."

Neumann was one of four Bentonville student-athletes to sign national letters of intent with NCAA Division I schools. Swimmer Ryan Husband made Auburn his choice, while baseball player Reid Ronan and girls soccer player Olivia Brown elected to sign with Oral Roberts.

Husband, one of the state's most heralded swimmers, set the state records in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 39.03 seconds) and the 100 free (45.52) last season and helped the Tigers set two state relay records as a freshman in 2017. He chose Auburn instead of Louisville, Michigan and Penn State, and he believes he will continue to swim the 100 and 200 freestyle in college.

"My favorite part of the team was the coaches," Husband said. "What my family thought also played in a role, but in the end, it came down to how I feel. I felt drawn to Auburn, and I could see myself going there and thriving there the best. I felt I could be the most successful there.

"I'm keeping with Tigers the rest of my life. That will be nice."

Ronan, a relief pitcher with Bentonville last season, said he expects to have a similar position when he arrives at Oral Roberts. The right-hander picked up a win and two saves and struck out 18 batters while allowing just seven hits over 11.2 innings.

"With my freshman year, they said I would be a middle relief guy," Ronan said. "They told me I'm not going to redshirt, so it will be fun to go right in there and start working.

"I'm going to stay grinding in the weight room. I'm doing the pitching programs they gave me, and also stick to what I'm doing over here. I think it will lead me to great places."

Brown is expected to be Bentonville's goalkeeper this spring after seeing limited playing time last year. She believes a successful season with the Lady Tigers will help lead her to go things when she arrives in Tulsa next fall.

"I've just got to get back to work," Brown said. "There are no days off. My next job won't only be to help Bentonville win a state title, but I'm going to use it to get some playing time next year.

"The coaching staff and the team dynamic, it was just a family. I thought to myself I'm going to grow here and I'm going to prosper in this community."

NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Bentonville High School seniors sign their national letters of intent, Thursday, November 14, 2019 during a signing day rally at Bentonville High School in Bentonville.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Olivia Brown reacts as her coach Kristina Henry (not pictured) speaks, Thursday, November 14, 2019 during a signing day rally at Bentonville High School in Bentonville. She will play soccer at Oral Roberts University

Preps Sports on 11/15/2019

Print Headline: Volleyball takes Bentonville's Neumann to the beach

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