Breanna Shaffer has been through some tough times during her high school volleyball career.
The Kennewick High School senior had never enjoyed a winning season, and endured a couple of winless seasons before this year.
A new coach, new game plan and a renewed sense of confidence helped Shaffer lead the Lions to a 9-5 record in league play and earn the top 3A seed to the District 8 playoffs. They finished one match out of the state tournament.
“She puts in a ton of time and effort on the court, she is a leader on the court and pushes her teammates to a higher level of play,” Kennewick coach Brandy Sonderland said of Shaffer. “Her competitive drive is what I looked for every day in practice. She was key to how our season went this year.”
Shaffer, a 5-foot-10 senior, finished the regular season with 244 kills (4.8 kills per set), 194 digs (3.88 per set) and served at 96 percent with 18 aces, and is the Herald’s All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
“That’s awesome,” said Shaffer, who also was the Mid-Columbia Conference Player of the Year. “I think, speaking for us seniors, it was a great turnaround. We could not have asked for a better season. I’m super competitive, and it was hard going from my club teams where we went to nationals, to high school where we weren’t winning.”
Joining Shaffer on the first team are teammate Monica Kaylor; Walla Walla’s Noelani Helm and Hannah Hair; Richland’s Lindsay Rosenthal and Alaina Lacey; and Caylee Shelton of Hanford.
Sonderland, who was the architect behind Kennewick’s resurgence, was named Coach of the Year, an honor also bestowed upon her by her MCC peers.
“I was scared in the beginning, but I believed in Brandy,” Shaffer said. “We needed someone to turn us around and whip us into shape. That was half the battle, getting us on the same page. We had been losing for three years. We had the talent, we just needed to perform. She was the key component.”
The Lions dropped their first two MCC matches to Richland and Walla Walla, then won five in a row, creating quite a stir in the conference and at Kennewick High.
“It has been really nice,” Sonderland said. “I knew it would be a challenge. I had to go in and shake up the culture and set a foundation for years to come. We will miss Breanna. We have some young talent coming back and some up-and-coming players coming in. We will hit things hard that Tuesday after Memorial Day.”
While Sonderland turned the program around, she could not have done it without Shaffer, who hit with power and was well-rounded player on the court.
“She has a really high volleyball IQ,” Sonderland said. “She can place her shots and read the defense. She sees the game from a coach’s standpoint. She could point out weakness and hit at them. She is a ball control freak, and that is something we needed. She is a quality all-around player.”
Shaffer blushed at the compliment.
“That is humbling,” she said. “I have been through a lot of situations here and stuck with it. It’s nice to see it pay off.”
Shaffer’s college plans are not set in stone, but she has her heart set on playing at Eastern Oregon University. She’s also had offers from Columbia Basin College and Spokane Falls.
“I really like Eastern because of the teaching program,” Shaffer said. “Spokane because it is close to home, and CBC because Tim (Davison) was my club coach.”
Sonderland had quite the rèsumè when she was hired in May.
The 2006 graduate of River View High School spent the past 11 years as a volleyball player and assistant coach at Community Colleges of Spokane.
A 6-foot middle, Sonderland had a stellar career at CCS.
She was a first-team East Region selection in 2006-07 and was a second-team NWAC tournament selection in 2006.
She was inducted into the River View Hall of Fame in 2013 and is the only athlete in school history to be named all-state in two sports — volleyball (first team 2004-05) and softball (first team 2006). She led the volleyball team to state berths in 2004-05, and the softball team to a state appearance in 2006.
All-Area Volleyball Team
MVP: Breanna Shaffer, sr., Kennewick.
Coach: Brandy Sonderland, Kennewick.
First Team — Hitters: Breanna Shaffer, sr., Kennewick; Monica Kaylor, sr., Kennewick; Hannah Hair, so., Walla Walla; Lindsey Rosenthal, jr., Richland; Caylee Shelton, sr., Hanford. Setter: Noelani Helm, jr., Walla Walla. Libero: Lainie Lacey, jr., Richland.
Second Team — Hitters: Mihaela Edwards, sr., Kiona-Benton; Ashley Ripplinger, jr, Prosser; Sophia Sumner, jr., Southridge; Madelaine Haynie, sr., Richland; Mareesa Hill, jr., Chiawana. Setter: Jordanne Bauder, jr., Richland. Libero: Marissa Logozzo, jr., Chiawana.
Honorable Mention — Hitters: Yaneli Garcia, jr., Chiawana; Sage Brustad, so., Richland; Emma Wenzel, sr., Walla Walla; Leah Blakney, sr., Prosser; Heather Hawkins, sr., Connell. Setter: Maddy Eerkes, sr., Kamiakin. Libero: Emily Dimino, sr., Walla Walla.