Shannon Webb rises, turns her shoulders perpendicular to the net and swings at the ball. As she connects, her arm twists, her elbow faces away from her body and her palm turns down parallel with her elbow.
This has become the Southern Utah University women’s volleyball star’s signature shot. The ball spins off her hand and tumbles to the far side of the court. It hits the point where the 10-foot and boundary lines connect.
The senior transfer from American University has used the shot thousands of times dating back to when she was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado. She used it in NCAA tournament matches at American and brought it with her to Cedar City.
“It’s kind of weird being able to drive home,” Webb said. “I just love the mountains. I didn’t realize how much I missed them.”
Webb spent her first three years of college volleyball on the east coast, but wanted to spend her last year of eligibility closer to home at a university where she’d have a chance to shine. She entered the transfer portal and connected with SUU’s assistant coach Lorelle Hoyer.
“I wanted a new start,” Webb recalls. “It was kind of scary entering the transfer portal, but I got really lucky that [Hoyer] contacted me.”
A week after their first conversation Webb made a visit to Cedar City. A week after the visit she committed to Southern Utah.
The T-Birds rocketed to their best start since 2015 with Webb as the leading scorer. Through three matches she had 57 kills. In SUU’s match against Utah State she was set 57 times.
She became the focal point of head coach Pete Hoyer’s offense. Her ability to hit around blockers has proved invaluable in the lead up to conference play.
Coming into 2019, SUU volleyball didn’t have a clear number one option. Three of the teams most targeted players transferred and left a hole of production to be filled.
Webb stepped into the role confidently. She’s been targeted more than a hundred times more than any other player on the team, and has 30% of the team’s total attacks.
That means nearly one in three sets go Webb’s way, and she’s racked up the kills in the process. As of the time of publishing, Webb is second in the Big Sky in kills per set with 3.64.
Playing volleyball is the easy part for Webb. Transferring into a new program after three years elsewhere has felt strange.
“Coming as a senior, it’s hard,” Webb said. “I did everything for three years, and now I’m a freshman again in a way.”
Pete and Lorelle Hoyer have helped Webb to take a leadership role on the team. The Hoyers have placed their confidence in her, and their trust has enabled Webb to play at her highest level.
The Hoyers are entering their second season at the helm, and Webb’s experience has been invaluable in their quest to establish a more disciplined culture at SUU.
As conference play begins, Webb’s role will only increase, as it should. Webb is the most skilled hitter on the team, and may be one of the best offensive players in T-Bird volleyball history.
Big Sky opponents will be aware of her talent, and will gameplan ways to stop her. That will open things up for the Hoyers’ offense as opposing defenses send blockers to Webb’s side.
Webb will only play one season in Cedar City, but has already made an incredible impact. If her form translates to conference play, Southern Utah could make their first Big Sky tournament appearance since 2015.
She’ll have a lot of chances to score that outside of the hand shot that she’s come to master. Now it’ll come down to converting and leading the T-Birds forward.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics.