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Phoenix local plans to lead ASU women's volleyball to their first NCAA tournament since 2015

Graduate student setter Shannon Shields recaps her volleyball career and how she imagines this season will change ASU volleyball for the better


ASU graduate student setter Shannon Shields (9) sets the ball practice at Desert Financial Arena on Monday, Sept.11, 2023, in Tempe.

Graduate student setter Shannon Shields has made quite a name for herself with the Sun Devils in her three seasons since transferred from Louisville after her freshman season.

Shields grew up in Phoenix and has been playing volleyball since she was 8 years old. She played sports, including tennis and swimming, until she finally found her passion for volleyball when she started with a club team. 

As someone who enjoys the company of others and favors a fast-paced, competitive team setting, Shields said she knew volleyball was the sport she was meant to play. She said volleyball is her "happy place."

"Being on the volleyball court is just my place where I can just be myself," Shields said. "The girls are like my sisters. I am an only child, and I didn't have older figures to look up to as siblings, and just having that within the team I've been part of is special." 

ASU volleyball coach JJ Van Niel said he sees the team's connection every day, crediting Shields for bringing everyone together. Van Niel said he is lucky to work with her. 

"I am so fortunate to work with her, as she is such a competitor and a great person to be around," Van Niel said.

After falling in love with volleyball, Shields continued throughout high school as a varsity member from freshman to senior year at Xavier College Prep. She would achieve many individual and team titles, consisting of Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year and MVP and Arizona Volleyball Player of the Year, and won two-time Arizona 6A state championships. 

One of Shields' biggest goals this year is making the NCAA tournament. She said she wants this not only for the team's success, but also for the message it sends fellow Arizona-raised athletes like her that they can succeed at ASU.

"I want us to do great this year by playing in the tournament and do well to prove that ASU is worth playing for and that fellow Arizona athletes can stay and feel they could be happy to play here," Shields said. 

Shields is one of two Arizona natives on the team. Tempe native and graduate student libero Mary Shroll transferred to ASU this year Loyola Marymount University. Shroll said she and Shields share "a lot of local pride." 

"(We) played with each other in clubs and high school and have always been good friends," Shroll said. "It's been cool to have that full circle moment and come to ASU to compete on the same side, as the Arizona volleyball community has been supportive of us both."  

Just by looking at the season so far, the Sun Devils has done nothing but thrive. Hoping to continue a 12-game winning streak as they head into their first couple of home games starting this Thursday against interstate rival Arizona Wildcats. 

Shields currently leads her team in assists with 404 — a 355-point difference the player with the second most. Van Niel said Shields is a huge part of the team's success as a major part of the offense and a team leader. 

"Part of why I love being a setter is being able to set up for a teammate and giving as many scoring opportunities as possible," Shields said. "Our team chemistry is there; I can set anyone up and trust them." 

Shields, as she uses her role in team leadership to support her teammates, especially because of her experience. 

"There are many new teammates here, and as one of the older girls here at the age of 22, I think the younger ones just look up to me for feedback," Shields said. "I know that in my position, they love to hear what I have to say, and I say it without being rude but with total honesty." 

Shields believes that having that kind of relationship and chemistry with her teammates helps bring them together, which shows on the court. 

"Shannon is a gamer," Van Niel said. "She comes to the court ready to play, and she does so really well."

 Edited by Vinny Deangelis, Alexis Waiss and Shane Brennan

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