AKRON – For as aggressive and competitive as the two are, you won’t find two more soft-spoken and kindhearted individuals as Shayleigh Shriver and Sophie Bussard.
The two have been stalwarts for the Tippecanoe Valley volleyball program since they were freshman. Now seniors having wrapped up their season with seven of their classmates after a tough loss in the sectional championship, the program is in a big transition. A program, however, the two are leaving an indelible mark upon for the next wave of players.
Bussard, whose popularity within the program and its fan base is unparalleled, did something in her four years no other player in Valley volleyball history has ever done. Bussard broke through as the first player to achieve 1,000 kills, which she achieved during the Dunes Tournament in late September. Just this past weekend at the Tippecanoe Valley Volleyball Sectional, she dug her 1,000th attempt to make her the only player in program history to reach 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. Remarkable considering just four years ago Caylie Teel was ripping up the courts in the same fashion, one of the most prolific players the area had ever seen.
“I hope being able to achieve my goals and leave some history behind inspires the younger generation,” Bussard began about her career with the Vikings. “I hope they set goals and see how much effort and determination it takes and even break those records. Having that mindset can be contagious and getting a whole team to have that same mindset can set up for a bright future.”
Bussard’s 1,075 kills shot past the 972 Teel set through her senior season in 2014 as the most in program history. Her 1,014 digs didn’t catch Megan Bibler’s 1,366, but was enough to get the double whammy.
“It’s hard walking away from something you’ve put so much time and effort into but knowing it’s better than how we found it is comforting,” Bussard said. “I am so proud how much my class has changed this program for the better.”
Shriver’s contributions on a daily basis weren’t as spectacular as Bussard’s, but she left a mark that is hard to beat. Her golden goose was had on Sept. 29, 2016, in a non-conference match at home against Culver. Shriver was scoring points in bunches, and the serves kept falling, and falling, and falling. Before anyone knew it, Shriver had served 25 straight points and the Vikings had won the second game 25-0, noted as the only time in program history it had won a game via shutout.
In the wild game, Shriver had registered nine aces and Valley didn’t allow a single Culver second chance, pitching a perfect game. In all, Shriver scored 29 straight points, which is a program record. She concluded her sophomore season with 321 points, which parlayed into the all-time record for service points in a season, and ends with 950 career points, also the most all-time at Valley.
She also graduates the program as the all-time aces leader with 262, and her 102 in 2016 was the most in a single season.
“There were some big goals we didn’t meet this year, but I know that overall we’ve been able to change the culture of our program for the better,” Shriver said. “You can’t serve a 25-0 game without your teammates working hard to protect your serve, I can only attribute my records to being blessed with a great team and great coaches, I’m so thankful for all they’ve invested in me.”
Joining Bussard in the notion that the program is in good hands going forward, Shriver added, “I think the records that both Soph and I now hold are representative of our team’s legacy at Valley. We’ve been playing for (Tippecanoe Valley head coach) Mallory (Eaton) with all of our teammates since we were in sixth grade, and every summer for the past few years we were in the gym five days a week instead of sleeping in or vacationing.
“It feels great to look back on what I’ve accomplished by setting those records and I love that when I come back to my high school in the future I’ll have my name up on the wall, but most of all I’m just proud of how far our program has come over the years. Mallory always tells us, “If you leave something better than you found it you’ve done what you need to do.””
Eaton has certainly changed the culture, one where the program was happy to be competitive when she first started coaching the varsity earlier this decade to one now that expects to compete for championships heading into the next decade. The coach was certainly glad to have the leadership of her nine seniors this season, and her bond with players like Bussard and Shriver will carry on.
“They were asked to step up early since their freshmen years and have continued to meet the challenge,” Eaton said. “Not only did they grow in skill level, but also in their leadership abilities. Amazing kids that will be impossible to replace.”