Baranek: Mother-daughter relation rooted at Shepard

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Deb and Abby Newsome make good use of their mother-daughter time.

If there’s a beach and a net, they’ll bring the volleyball.

“We played in Mexico once and it was me and someone from the resort against Mom and Dad,” Abby said. “Of course, me and the guy from the resort won. Everything we do is competitive.”

Except maybe when they’re scheming together.

“We share gym shoes. We wear the same size,” Deb said. “When we tell Dad that we brought a new pair, we tell him it wasn’t $100 for the pair, it was only $50 each.”

But Deb’s favorite mother-daughter activity is watching Abby compete in volleyball, basketball and soccer at Shepard, where she herself was a pioneer athlete, dare I say, back in the day.

She was known as Deb Flood then, and she played volleyball and basketball for Shepard’s first varsity teams from 1975 to ’78. Flood went on to become one of St. Xavier’s first scholarship female athletes in both sports.

Abby Newsome is one of Shepard’s busiest athletes. The 5-7 junior is a libero/outside hitter for the Astros’ volleyball team, a point guard for the basketball team and an all-conference right defender/sweeper for the soccer team.

She’s been a varsity member on the basketball and soccer squads since her freshman year.

“Sports is my life, basically,” she said. “I’ve done it my entire life. I could not see myself ever not being in sports.”

It amazes Deb Newsome every time she watches Abby play volleyball.

“I fall off my chair,” she said. “Those hitters on the team are just unbelievable. This team that Abby’s on right now plays better than the college team I was on.”

In this case, Mom knows what she’s talking about.

Volleyball, especially on the high school level, still was a sport in development when Deb Flood played. During her freshman year she was a student at Richards, waiting to become a member of the first senior class at a new school opening in Palos Heights.

“At Richards we had north and south (buildings) and half days because of overcrowding,” she said. “Us younger ones wanted to go to Shepard. We were very excited to become sophomores and play on the varsity.

“We had some really good teams. There were pins made up that said, ‘Dr. J’s girls are going to state.’ ”

Dr. J was coach Carol Jankowski. And while none of the teams that Flood played on made it to state, they did win district titles. Flood also excelled on the basketball court, which led to the fairly unique situation of her playing two sports in college.

Abby Newsome grew up in a sports household. Her father, Tim, was a baseball player at Curie and St. Xavier, and played minor league baseball in the Detroit Tigers organization.

Three older brother also were accomplished athletes. Brett played baseball at Marist and St. Ambrose and in the minors for the Washington Nationals. Tyler played at Marist and Lewis. The third brother, Benny, died in a car accident in 2005 at age 13 while on his way to a baseball tournament in Iowa.

Inspired and toughened by all three who, “taught me how to play like a boy,” Abby relished the opportunity to play three sports at Shepard.

“I couldn’t decide which (sport) to stop playing,” she said. “I’d always done sports my whole life and I’m really dedicated to every season I get into. It would just feel weird not to be in season.”

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