By Robb Hemmelgarn
When Shannon Egbert graduated from New Knoxville High School in the spring of 1990, she left the school as one of the most celebrated athletes in its history.
Her list of accomplishments is plentiful, but perhaps her most unique experience was helping lead the Lady Rangers to the 1989 Class A State Semifinals in volleyball, their only volleyball appearance at the state level before or since.
Ironically, Egbert didn't find herself bumping, setting, or spiking until she reached high school and didn't start a varsity game until her sophomore year.
"I didn't play volleyball in junior high, so my first competitive experience playing volleyball came when I was a freshman," remarked Egbert. "Since I had never played before, I would play a couple of games for the junior varsity team to get some experience, and then I would sit on the varsity bench and play if I was needed. I don't think I had any expectations as to the level of play -- I just needed to get some playing time under my belt and get the feel of the game and rules."
It didn't take long for her to catch on, as the following year she became a starter and eventually built her career into something special. Egbert was no stranger to success. As a freshman, she placed sixth in the state in the long jump and returned to state competition as a sophomore in both the long jump and the high jump. As her senior year began, Egbert came to the conclusion she wanted to make the school year one to remember, and she did exactly that. "Before volleyball that season, I think my teammates and I knew that we had the potential for a good season," said Egbert. I was lucky enough that three of my best friends, Jenny Wessel, Stacy Tinnerman, and Angie Schrolucke, were also on the team. I think the chemistry of our friendship helped us tremendously on the court. We knew the talent level was high enough to have a good season, but it was going to be up to us as seniors to lead the team to the level we wanted to go. It was our last shot."
With perennial-league power St. Henry, and an upcoming Fort Recovery squad on the schedule, the Chuck Braden-led Rangers had a tough road to hoe, but managed to battle through the schedule and emerge as MAC Champions.
"I don't really remember feeling intimidated playing St. Henry and Fort Recovery," recalled Egbert. "We knew that there were some good teams in our conference, but we knew that we were good too. I think we took the early mind set that we wanted to make our last season our best season. We couldn't let the other teams beat us by name alone - they were going to have to beat us on the court."
Although the Rangers defeated St. Henry in the New Knoxville Invitational Championship, ending the Redskins' seven-year run as tournament champions, it was the match up with St. Henry near the end of the season that Egbert will remember the most. "The gym was so loud during that game with all of the fans screaming and cheering. We lost the first game 15-1, but came back to win the next two. I think winning games like that helped us to realize even more so that we had a lot of potential and how far we could go if we really wanted to."
The Rangers ended up sealing their first league title a few games later, and as the postseason tournament wore on, they found themselves advancing further each week. Eventually the Rangers wound up in the state tournament with a 25-2 record, where they opened the weekend against a very strong Newark Catholic team.
"We were very happy to make it to the state tournament. We had set our goals very high and had achieved them. I wish we could have played better though in that first game at state. We had never been there before, so it was a new experience for everyone involved."
The Rangers would eventually succumbed to the Green Wave and Egbert explained the atmosphere in the locker room following the contest as somber.
"It was so sad afterward, especially because we didn't play well, and for us four seniors, it was the end of our volleyball career. There were a lot of tears and hugs, but Mr. Braden just reminded us of how proud he was of us and how the whole community stood behind us and couldn't be prouder."
Egbert finished her high school career as an All-MAC and All-Ohio performer in volleyball and was All-MAC as well in basketball. She lead the area in scoring on the basketball court and was also selected to play in the District 8 all-star game in both sports. In track, she returned to the state track meet in the long jump as well as the 300 meter hurdles and the 100 meter hurdles, placing fourth overall in the 300-meter event.
"It was great to play at a school the size of New Knoxville," she explained. "We all knew one another so well and I got to play sports with all of my friends as well as my sister, Emily. You could trust and depend on one another without question."
Following her stellar high school career, it was on to Huntington College in Indiana, where Egbert excelled for the Foresters' volleyball team.
"Playing college volleyball was definitely a change," she explained. "It was a different coach, different drills, and different teammates. The playing level was up another notch, and there was definitely a transition from the high school game. I may have been good in high school, but in college, everyone is as good or better."
As a freshman, Egbert played in the middle front, but from her sophomore through senior seasons, she played the outside hitter position. As a junior, she was all-conference as the Foresters were District 21 runners-up in the NAIA tournament. The following year, Egbert was all-conference, all-district, and made the all-tournament team as Huntington College won the NAIA District 21 Championship and earned a berth in the NAIA National Tournament.
Following college, Egbert moved to New Castle, Indiana, where she currently lives and works as a fiscal officer for a nonprofit agency that assists low-income families and individuals become self-sufficient. Although she doesn't play competitively anymore, Egbert does have time for the occasional game of sand volleyball. She also dabbled in the coaching ranks for three years with the Delta Juniors club volleyball team in Muncie, Indiana, and as a seventh grade coach for four years at Delta Middle School.
"I tell kids that they have to always have a good work ethic and create good habits when it comes to their athletic careers. These habits will then follow you after your career in all aspects of your life."