No high school volleyball program in the state was less surprised that a Xavier College Prep player was picked as this year’s Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year than Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School.
And, more specifically, Shannon Shields as the player named.
Shields, a senior setter for the Xavier team, contributed 40 assists and 12 digs in the 6A state championship match to help the Gators deprive Corona of the title for a second straight year.
In 2016, Corona won its first state girls’ volleyball title since 1991, but was denied a repeat by Xavier, who beat the Aztecs three times during the 2017 season, the last time for the state championship. And this year, Corona made it all the way back to the title game, only to be denied a second straight time by the Gators.
While Shields was a major contributor to Xavier’s successful run to back-to-back titles, she enjoyed a break-out season in her final prep campaign. She finished her senior season with 401 digs, 143 kills, 49 service aces, and 39 blocks to lead the Gators to a 33-9 record.
She was also named the Premier Region Player of the Year and was a second-team All-American, as selected by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
As Shields heads off to play for the University of Louisville next year, she leaves behind a career record of 3,704 assists, 1,172 digs, and 519 kills.
The Gatorade award also takes into account the player’s academic achievements and “exemplary character,” on and off the field. Shields was a member of the student council at the all-girls Catholic school in central Phoenix and donated many hours to multiple community-service initiatives through the National Charity League, while maintaining a weighted 3.87 GPA in the classroom.
Each year, a high school volleyball player is selected for the award from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those winners will now vie for the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year award.
Shields is one of four players from Xavier who have been selected for the state honor. And the school has pretty much ‘owned’ the competition the last few years.
This is the third straight year that a Xavier player has been selected for the Arizona award. Brooke Nuneviller claimed the honor the two years previous to Shields winning it.
That shouldn’t be too surprising for a program that has won 13 state titles over the past two decades.
You can’t do that without talent like Nuneviller and Shields.