The Ohio Bobcats welcomed in a few new faces at the start of the 2014 season. Among them was Shelby Walker, a junior middle blocker/ outside hitter from Tampa Bay, Florida.
Walker spent two seasons at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Bay, Florida, and helped lead the Hawks to back-to-back Suncoast Conference titles.
Walker ranked ninth nationally in blocks per set (1.35) during her sophomore season in 2013 and earned First Team All-Suncoast Conference honors.
In the same season, Walker had a hitting percentage of .363 for Hillsborough as the team finished the season ranked No. 6 in the nation with an overall record of 33-4. The Hawks went on to finish third at the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament.
In her first season at Ohio, Walker has played in 69 of 70 sets and is one of six Bobcats with over 80 kills (81) this season. She is tied for the second fewest total errors out of those six players with 34. Her .229 kill percentage is the third highest on the team, and she is second on the team in blocks with 64, trailing only teammate Karin Bull, who has 77.
So what was Walker’s journey like from the Sunshine State to the Buckeye State? I sat down with her to find out a little more about the new face in the Bobcat locker room.
Speakeasy Sports: You came from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida, knowing most kids would give anything to move down South. What made you choose Ohio University?
Shelby Walker: Well, volleyball first of all. It was a great opportunity for that. Also, whenever I was deciding on a school, I knew I wanted to get out of Florida. Florida is home to me, and I wanted to get out of the sun for a change and experience the seasons.
Speakeasy: With a new school and a new team there comes a lot of change. How did the rest of your teammates welcome you to your new school?
SW: The girls were great. When I decided to commit to this school, the coach was nonexistent, and I had to make my decision based on the girls. We had good chemistry from the start, and they really took me under their wing and made Athens home for me.
Speakeasy: When did you begin to think of volleyball as something you could do at the next level?
SW: Well it wasn’t too long ago because I was actually cut during tryouts for volleyball my freshman and sophomore year. It wasn’t until I made JV (junior varsity) my junior year that I was on my first organized team. I played club volleyball for a while and then was able to make the team at Hillsborough, and now it has taken me to OU.
Speakeasy: What’s been your biggest volleyball achievement thus far in your career?
SW: Last year during my sophomore year our team was ranked third in nationals.
Speakeasy: What’s your first song you go to on your pre-game playlist to get you ready for a game?
SW: Well, I don’t listen to a ton of music, but my favorite song is Get Low by Lil Jon.
Speakeasy: Describe what it was like to meet Coach Deane Webb for the first time since you guys were both new to Athens. Have you had any coaches similar to him in the past and does his system work for you?
SW: Coaches are always different, but my whole mindset was just to adjust to whoever was going to be the coach since I committed to the school without a coach. I’ve had a lot of different coaches before so I’ve had to adjust to a lot of their playing styles. I think with both of us being new to OU, it was easier for me to adjust because I never played for the previous coach.
Speakeasy: You guys are riding a nine-game winning streak right now, and sit at 15-4 overall and undefeated in conference play. What’s been the secret to the team’s success?
SW: It’s really come down to just working hard every day and following each game plan against each opponent. We’ve kept our intensity high and focused each day in preparation, and so far it has paid off.
Speakeasy: This program is used to success with nine NCAA tournament births in the past 11 years and 10 MAC titles in those 11 seasons. Is the goal this year just to win the MAC and make it to the tournament? Or is this team aiming for something bigger?
SW: It’s one of our goals obviously to win the MAC, but our biggest goal is to make it to the Sweet 16 because we haven’t done that since 2005. We’re aiming for a banner year.
Speakeasy: Do you have any hobbies besides volleyball?
SW: Well being from Florida, I love going to the beach and doing anything outside. I also enjoy reading.
Speakeasy: Are you ready for the snow to come in about a month or so?
SW: I am kind of dreading the winter. I don’t even own a jacket or boots so I can’t mentally wrap my head around what the weather is going to be like pretty soon.
Let’s hope that Walker can stay warm during the winter as well as hope the Bobcats can continue to be red hot and keep their win streak going.
Eight MAC games remain and Ohio holds the best record in the MAC as it eyes a No. 1 seed going into the tournament.