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Locally: Former Gonzaga Prep standout Kayla Leland named Northwest Conference Woman of the Year

UPDATED: Sat., Aug. 18, 2018

Gonzaga Prep’s Kayla Leland (15) shoots for 2 points over Mt. Spokane’s Lexie Hereford (21) in the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at Gonzaga Prep High School. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Prep’s Kayla Leland (15) shoots for 2 points over Mt. Spokane’s Lexie Hereford (21) in the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at Gonzaga Prep High School. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
From staff ,news services

Kayla Leland has been honored by the Northwest Conference on multiple occasions. This may be its ultimate tribute.

The Division III conference has named the May graduate from Spokane (Gonzaga Prep) its Woman of the Year for 2017-18, making the multiple track and field and cross country All-American eligible for the NCAA national award.

This is the 28th year of the NCAA’s Woman of the Year program, with student-athletes judged on academics, athletics, service and leadership. There are 153 nominees, 61 in Division III. The NCAA will announce 10 finalists in each of its three divisions early next month.

Leland, a 2018 NCAA Division III Academic All-American in track and field and cross country, graduated with a double major in health science and Spanish. She carried a 3.94 grade-point average into the spring semester and will attend graduate school at Washington State this fall.

Over the course of her Whitworth career, Leland was a seven-time NCAA Division III All-American in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field, capping it with All-America honors in all three in 2017-18.

She placed 19th at the Division III Cross Country Championships, was fifth in the 5,000 meters at the 2018 indoor championships and closed out her career with a runner-up finish in the 3,000 steeplechase outdoors. She was also the 2018 NWC Women’s Track Athlete of the Year after winning the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 in less than 24 hours.

Service projects throughout her career have included Trick or Treat so Kids Can Eat.


Washington State has scheduled its Cougar Baseball Alumni Weekend for Oct. 19-21 in Pullman. All former Cougars players, their families and current players and their families are invited.

Things will get started at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 19 with a team practice/scrimmage. On Oct. 20, three hours before kickoff for the WSU-Oregon football game, there will be a tailgate party catered by Fork in the Road. On Oct. 21 at 1 p.m., the current Cougars will scrimmage Gonzaga at Bailey-Brayton Field.

Deadline to register for the tailgate dinner and tickets for the football game is Oct. 9.

Questions/info: Kristy Lees, (509) 335-0368, or email


An exhibition against neighbor Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Gym will introduce the Vandals and launch a series of six nonconference home games for the Idaho men’s team leading into Big Sky Conference play the last weekend of the year.

After opening the regular season at UC Irvine on Nov. 9, Idaho will welcome Nicholls State to Memorial Gym on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. and Bethesda University on Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

Walla Walla University, on Nov. 27, and Cal State Bakersfield, on Dec. 8, both at 7, will close out the Memorial Gym portion of the nonconference schedule before Nebraska-Omaha comes to town on Dec. 15 for a 3 p.m. game in Cowan Spectrum.

Idaho’s nonconference schedule will also include the Vandal Holiday Hoops Showdown in Boise Nov. 23-24, a visit to former Big Sky rival North Dakota on Dec. 1 and the basketball Battle of the Palouse at Washington State on Dec. 5.

College scene

Brett Rypien, the Boise State senior quarterback from Shadle Park, was named the 2018 Preseason Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year in football by the media.

Rypien, a first-team All-MWC selection as a freshman and sophomore and second team in 2017 as a junior, enters 2018 as the nation’s active leading passer, throwing for 9,876 yards. He has thrown the fourth-most touchdown passes among active FBS quarterbacks (60 in 37 games).

Last season, he threw for 2,857 yards (second in the MWC) and 16 touchdowns. He has been named to preseason watch lists for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given to the nation’s best quarterback, and the Maxwell Award, given to the best overall player nationally.

Ula Motuga, an incoming freshman at Washington State, has been named to the U18 Australian women’s basketball national team and will play for her country in the FIBA Under-18 Asia Championships Oct. 28-Nov. 3 in Bengalura, India.

The tournament is a qualifier for the 2019 U-19 World Cup. Australia finished sixth at the World Cup in 2018.

Matuga has extensive experience with Australian national or state teams, playing this summer with the U-18 National 3x3 team in the World Championships in China.

DeVonne Ryter, a senior at Idaho, has rejoined her teammates for practice and the start of the 2018 season refreshed and invigorated after spending part of her summer touring with a U.S. collegiate team in Europe.

The middle blocker from Sedona, Arizona, second-team All-Big Sky Conference as a junior after leading the Vandals with a .369 hitting percentage, was on a 10-woman all-star-team called Team BIP that participated in the 2018 Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia.

BIP finished third in its pool of five USA teams and didn’t advance to the semifinals, but still Ryter said it was a positive experience.

“It was super competitive; there was not any sense of pressure on us though,” she said. “It was the first time in a while we just got to play and just have fun with it. It was really cool.”

She feels those “two weeks of volleyball really prepared me for our preseason now. … I just kind of hit the ground running. I think what really prepared me was the mental part of it and not putting too much pressure on myself. I kind of found my passion for volleyball again in Europe.”

• Washington State senior Taylor Mims was named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 team in volleyball and the Cougars were rated seventh in the preseason coaches’ poll.

That matches their finish last season when WSU made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season and Mims was an All-Pac-12 selection.

Defending champion Stanford was picked by the coaches to repeat atop the conference that sent nine teams to the NCAA Tournament last season. Washington was picked sixth.

Kim Wong, an Alaska junior middle blocker from Mead, and Western Washington senior setter Brett Boesel from Brewster, Washington, have been named to the 2018 Preseason All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference team in volleyball.

Wong was honorable mention All-GNAC in 2017 when she averaged 1.62 kills and 0.53 blocks per set while ranking sixth in the GNAC with a .306 hitting percentage.

Boesel is coming off a junior season in which she was AVCA first-team All-West Region and honorable mention All-American after leading the GNAC and West Region averaging 11.72 assists per set.

• Gonzaga has been picked to finish fifth in the 2018 West Coast Conference coaches’ preseason volleyball poll, the Bulldogs’ highest preseason ranking since 2015 when they were tabbed fourth.

The Zags return 12 letter winners, with five starters and a libero from last season’s team that finished 14-16 overall and 9-9 in the WCC, tying for fourth place.

For the second straight year, BYU was a unanimous selection to win the conference for a seventh straight year. San Diego was picked second and Loyola Marymount third. BYU (No. 8) and San Diego (No. 14) are ranked in the 2018 AVCA preseason national poll.

• Gonzaga wasn’t shown much love in the West Coast Conference men’s soccer preseason balloting by coaches. GU is listed last in the poll led by Pacific for a second straight season and the Bulldogs didn’t have anyone named to the All-WCC preseason team.

Pacific, coming off back-to-back second-round appearances in the NCAA Tournament, received four first-place votes and 44 points to two first-place votes and 41 for Portland, which was picked to finish second. Four teams received first-place votes.


Ross Button, an assistant at Idaho in 2017, has been named assistant men’s coach at Gonzaga, Bulldogs head coach Robert Gray announced.

A native of Moscow, Idaho, Button was head coach at Moscow High School for three years before joining the Vandals. The 2003 Moscow graduate played at Lewis-Clark State, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in social science.

He also has four years of professional caddy experience, which Gray said will be an asset, especially on the course during competition.


The Spokane Chiefs have set the times for six scrimmages this week at the Arena that will lead to the Western Hockey League team’s annual Red-White Game on Aug. 26 that caps training camp.

Teams, named for former Chiefs Derek Ryan (2003-07), Tyler Johnson (2007-11) and Kevin Sawyer (1992-95), will scrimmage at 1 and 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, 12 and 3 p.m. on Friday and 1:15 and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday before the roster is pared prior to the Red-White Game at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Team Johnson, honoring the current Tampa Bay Lightning forward, will wear blue jerseys; Team Sawyer, recognizing the former Anaheim Mighty Ducks forward, will wear white; and Team Ryan, in honor of the current Calgary Flames forward, will wear red.

All scrimmages, including the Red-White Game, are free and open to the public.

Letters of intent

Whitworth softball – Drea Schwaier, RHP, Yelm, Washington; Rose Meshell, RHP, Crandall, Texas; Maddy Thomas, C/1B, Milton-Freewater, Oregon (DeSales); Delayna Waite, OF, Eagle, Idaho; Makenzie Sherrill, Util., Orangevale, California.

Lewis-Clark State men’s basketball – Conner Moffatt, G, Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls/Everett CC, averaged 12.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists last season at Everett, named to NWAC Sophomore All-Star game, had 138 3s in two seasons; Jett Sobotta, G, Clarkston/Corban University, transferring as sophomore to join his former Corban coach, averaged 6.3 points, shot 43 percent on 3s after helping lead Clarkston to back-to-back State 2A titles; Braeden Wilson, F/P, Lewiston, first-team All-IEL 5A as a senior.


Jim Adrian of the Tri-Cities, long active in softball umpiring in the Northwest, has been named the first coordinator of softball officials for the Big Sky Conference, which has had the sport for seven years. He has served in a similar position in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and Northwest Athletic Conference.


Bex Freebairn, who worked with new Washington State women’s coach Matt Leach at Indiana State the last two seasons, has joined her former boss on the Cougars staff as an assistant coach.

Freebairn has coaching and swimming experience in New Zealand, where she competed nationally until her sophomore year of college when injuries forced her to stop competing. She earned a bachelor’s of sport coaching while majoring in strength and conditioning from the University of Canterbury (N.Z.) in 2015 and a master’s of coaching at Indiana State in May.


Ron Loghry, longtime deputy commissioner of the Big Sky Conference, has been named interim commissioner as the league searches for a replacement for Andrea Williams, who left after two years to become chief operating officer of the College Football Playoff.

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