by Marcos Aragon
The Arizona Storm 17 Thunder is brewing after their first win of the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT, over Summit 17 National in straight sets. Solid blocking and outstanding kills fueled the Storm to victory Saturday.
But the way that Storm setter Shannon Shields manipulated the Summit blockers to set up her teammates was nothing short of masterful.
“I give a ton of credit to that kid,” said Storm head coach Jami Rolfes, who praised Shields’ ability to find splits for her hitters to exploit.
“Shannon is amazing,” added Rolfes, “She’s really good at seeing the block and going opposite the flow and getting our splits, and that’s huge in our offense. I know we look big but compared to some of these teams we play, we really rely on those splits … so she does an amazing job at just seeing what the blockers are doing and going opposite.”
Summit led early in the first set but once it was tied at 10-10, they lost a hold of the set for good. The Storm won 25-21 behind terrific blocking down the stretch, never allowing Summit to regain the lead or get within one point.
The second set belonged entirely to the Storm. They came out hot due to their defense saving possessions and their hitters nailing their shots. The Storm blew over Summit, 25-12.
“We worked a ton on blocking, so it was nice to actually see it show up this match,” said Rolfes, “If we can set up a good block, our defense can just basically set themselves up to dig balls … I think big plays on defense gets the team going, too, and it brings up that energy level and keeps them hyped. I’m super proud of these girls and how they played that match.”
Shields knows how important it is to her team for her to set up them up successfully but also looks at how much they come together during the matches as a big component for their win.
“I feel like the chemistry we’ve had throughout the years with this team has been really great,” Shields said. “We got two new players this year, and I feel like they came in and they’re ready to go. It’s been really fun.”
After praising her new teammates this season, Shields looked back on last season’s tournament and wants her team to atone for their underwhelming performance.
“I think we’re ready to just do it. The year before, we didn’t do as well as we thought we would, and I think it’s time for some redemption.”
Despite the loss, Summit head coach Andy Gass is still confident in his girls’ ability to regroup and come back strong.
“I’m always ready to go, so I know they will be too. We were 2-3 at nationals and ended up third in the nation,” he said. “We know how to bounce back after not having great days or tough matches and losing and stuff; they always rebound strong and play through it.”