By Walter Villa
Kaysie Shebeneck’s junior volleyball season ended with a state title, Gatorade State Player of the Year honors and the admiration of her coaches and teammates.
It started with a terrifying car crash.
Last September, the 6-foot-1 setter/right-side hitter for Burlington (Wis.) was in the passenger seat of her mom’s car, which was stopped at a red light. Two other cars collided, and they came hurtling at the Shebenecks at a high rate of speed.
“I saw the whole thing -- it was as if it were happening in slow motion,” said Shebeneck, who added that she and her mom were wearing their seatbelts. “It was scary.”
Shebeneck missed four matches due to her injuries – “a slight concussion and whiplash.” Her mother, Jane, suffered shoulder and back injuries. Their car was totaled.
“Like any good mother, she reached over to try to protect me,” Shebeneck said.
Shebeneck said it wasn’t until the state finals that she felt fully recovered.
If that’s true, then Shebeneck at full strength must be frightening. She finished the season with 754 assists, 154 kills, 104 digs, 49 blocks and 23 service aces while posting a kill percentage of .474.
She was also named the 2011 Division I State Tournament MVP after connecting on 23 assists with 16 kills and 12 digs in a three-set title-clinching win over Fond du Lac (Wis.).
It was Burlington’s first state title of any kind since the softball team won in 1984.
“It was amazing,” said Shebeneck, who has a 4.01 GPA on a 4.33 scale. “We had a lot of obstacles to get through. We showed how strong we are and how well we get along.”
Shebeneck is now playing club ball for Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold.
In June of her sophomore year, she committed to Texas A&M, where she wants to study education. She’s interested in becoming a middle-school teacher and, potentially, a coach.
Next up on Shebeneck’s to-do list is a big season in club ball. She is one of three players on the Sting’s 17 Gold roster who has already picked a college, joining junior middle blocker Katie Stadick (Illinois) and junior outside hitter Olivia Akin (Loyola Chicago).
The Sting have two major road trips on their 2012 schedule: the JVA World Challenge in Houston March 30-April 1 and the AAU Championships In Orlando June 24-27.
“Kaysie’s a special player,” said Ted Schulte, one of the Sting’s coaches. “She’s complete -- a wickedly good blocker and an adroit hitter and setter.”
High on Hughes
Jon Aharoni, the coordinator of Beach Coaching and Development for USA Beach Volleyball, is convinced Sara Hughes is his next big star.
Hughes, a 5-11 junior at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), has a 4.2 grade-point average and recently committed to Southern Cal on a sand volleyball scholarship.
“She is this skinny little blonde girl who is the most ferocious beast I’ve ever seen in the sand,” Aharoni said. “She hasn’t lost a tournament in four or five years.
“She goes full speed every point with a smile on her face. She’s just one of those kids who instantly makes your program better because everyone around her is inspired to work harder.”