If there was one person on the early Missouri State University-West Plains Lady Grizzly teams who epitomized the tough, competitive, dominant image the team’s mascot brought to mind, it had to be Shannon Washburn.
“She was an animal,” Lady Grizzly Head Coach Trish Kissiar-Knight said of the 5-9 middle attacker from Lamar, Mo., who played for the team during the 1994 and 1995 seasons. “She had a competitive personality that others fed off.”
Washburn developed that personality as a four-year player at Lamar High School, where she led the Lady Tigers to conference and district championships and the state semifinals. During her high school career, she also earned all-conference, all-district, all-area, all-region and all-state honors, was named the team MVP and was selected to the all-conference academic team.
She quickly put her talents and personality to use for the Lady Grizzlies when she arrived in August 1994. In her first match on Aug. 31 against Region 16 powerhouse Jefferson College, she led the team in digs with 10 and recorded 13 service points (including 2 aces) and 1.5 blocks, prompting Knight to claim that Washburn could be one of the team’s best players.
“Shannon was a middle attacker, and she was very good at it. But she could do a lot of things. She was our primary passer and a good defensive player, and she had a great arm swing. She didn’t have a weakness, really,” Knight recalled.
Washburn continued to excel during her freshman year, leading the team in digs (14) against East Central College on Sept. 26 and in kills (a total of 12) in a dual match with Harding University and Williams Baptist College on Oct. 31. Her efforts helped the Lady Grizzlies post a 45-16 record in 1994 and earn a second place finish in the Region 16 Championship Tournament. They also earned her honorable mention recognition on the all-region team.
Washburn’s talents really began to shine in 1995. She set the statistical standard in the season-opening East Central College Tournament in August when she recorded a team-leading 45 kills, 29 serve receive passes and 8 blocks for the event. She also co-led the team in serving points with 35 (including 5 aces) and had 16 digs. Against Meramec Community College on Sept. 18, she had an “excellent night,” leading the team in kills (18), serving points (13) and aces (6). She earned all-tournament team honors at the Oct. 6-7 Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic Volleyball Classic and was named MVP of the Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic-sponsored tournament Oct. 27-28. A stomach ailment kept her from performing at 100 percent during the 1995 Region 16 Championship Tournament, but she still played well enough to help the team place second in the event and earn all-region first-team honors.
“She got sick with the flu before the region tournament and threw up for three days straight,” Knight recalled. “Still, she played. She had a lot of guts. Had she been 100 percent, I think we would have upset Jefferson College that year in the championship.”
The Lady Grizzlies ended the 1995 season with a 38-14-1 record, and Washburn was named to the NJCAA’s All-American second team, the highest honor of any Grizzly athlete at that time. She also received second-team All-American honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and third-team All-American honors from Volleyball magazine.
Following her career at Missouri State University-West Plains, Washburn transferred to Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. During her junior season, she helped lead the Jennies to a 15-1 record and a first-place finish in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Conference, and a 34-6 overall record and a first-place finish in the NCAA-II Region Championship. She also was second on the team in blocks with 115 (37 solo, 78 assisted). As a senior, Washburn was again the second best blocker at the net, recording 103 blocks (34 solo, 69 assisted). She helped lead the team to a 16-0 MIAA Conference record and first-place finish, and a 26-6 overall record and third-place tie in the NCAA-II Regional Championship. She was named second-team all-MIAA and the Jennies’ most improved player that same season.
Washburn received a Bachelor of Science in Biology-Unified Sciences for Secondary Education degree from Central Missouri State and is on track to receive a Master in Education-Collaborative Teaching and Learning degree from Graceland University on May 12, 2005. She currently teaches biology and serves as assistant volleyball coach and head track coach at William Howard Taft High School in the Northside Independent School District of San Antonio, Texas.
Washburn credits much of her success to her time at Missouri State University-West Plains. “Without Missouri State University-West Plains, I would not be where I am today. This university was the springboard for all of my successes and a learning place for failures. It taught me to grow up,” she said. “I love West Plains, and if I ever get the chance to move back there, I would love it. It’s a great place and a great town.”
For Knight, Washburn remains one of the best players ever to have gone through the Lady Grizzly program. Among the program’s single season leaders, she is 20th in kills with 326 in 1994, 14th in attacking attempts with 898 in 1995 and 20th in blocks with 77.25 in 1995. Among career leaders, she is sixth in kills with 739, seventh in attacking attempts with 1,638, seventh in aces with 83,12th in attacking percentage with .277, and 15th in blocks with 118.75. “She was one of the people who helped us take a big step up the ladder to where we are now,” Knight said. “And, she could still play with some of the teams I’ve had in recent years.”
Comments like that and her selection to the Grizzly Hall of Fame are humbling for Washburn. “I’m not exactly sure why I was chosen over other girls. I am sure they have accomplished more than I have, but I’m very honored. It makes me feel good that Missouri State University-West Plains holds me in high regards,” she said. “West Plains is the best venue I have ever played in. It’s the fans who make this place such a magical and memorable place. Thank you for supporting Grizzly Athletics all these years and standing behind us as our program got stronger and stronger, year by year.”