DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Shields stands above on volleyball court

Shannon Shields is excited.

Excited for the Xavier Prep volleyball season to start, but maybe even more excited about an element that should help her on the court.

“I grew an inch since last season, and now I’m 5(feet) 10 (inches)!’’ she said, smiling.

She is in tall timber both on the floor for Xavier and as one of the state’s top players.

Shields, a junior setter, is one of the Gators’ leaders and already has a college scholarship locked up (Louisville). It is quite an achievement.

She and her Gator teammates will participate in an annual four-team scrimmage at Chandler Hamilton on Wednesday (Aug. 23), along with Hamilton, Chandler Basha and Phoenix Sunnyslope. Xavier’s first match of the season is Aug. 29 against Mesa Mountain View in the Activity Center at 6 p.m.

Xavier volleyball's Shannon Shields (Paradise Valley Independent/Duke Photography photo).

In her younger days, Shields played all sorts of sports in middle school. But it was when she was introduced to volleyball that she sensed she had something on which to build a future.

“I knew this was the one. I just loved it!’’ Shields said.

“I just love the competition and the family-type atmosphere. We have had that at Xavier before and we have it again this year. It’s a great feeling.’’

She would like to earn an indoor state championship to go with the ones she helped the Gators win in beach volleyball.

Shields has come close a few times. She was on the team with the great Khalia Lanier that fell short two years ago and suffered a disappointing setback in the semifinals last season.

“We have big motivation this year. We think we can do it,’’ she said.

Xavier coach Lamar-Renee Bryant is looking forward to another productive year for Shields.

“Since her college decision is done, she can now play stress-free,’’ Bryant said. “She can be calmer on the court and be a student of the game again.

“She has a great personality, very outgoing, and her teammates really respect her. She always has good distribution for the hitters.’’

She has also studied and talked to the Xavier outside hitters to learn what types of passes they think will give them the best chance for success.

“Lanie (Wagner) likes the ball fast and Bri (McKnight) likes the ball higher,’’ Shields said.

There has been a lot of learning for Shields by playing in the summer with the Arizona Storm club team. She has played against some of her Xavier teammates in that competition.

And playing beach volleyball has helped her have a better overall court sense and being more anticipatory in what her opponents are going to do.

Every now and then, Shields also will get in a power kill of her own with a big left-handed swing. She also is one of the team’s top servers.

She can see it all because she is taller -- by an inch. It is an exciting prospect for her and the Gators.

Xavier Prep volleyball roster – 2017

Seniors – Alyna Draper, Ericka Snopko, Alexis Diaz-Infante, Lanie Wagner.

Juniors – Ashley Yeung, Jennelle Yarwood, Trinity Cavanaugh, Shannon Shields, Hayley Nash, Kate Spellman.

Sophomores – Jasmine Knight, Briana McKnight.

Freshmen – Serena Turner, Christianna Griedl.

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