Philander Smith winds up being Shelton’s destination

When Bryant Lady Hornets volleyball coach Beth Solomon felt her team needed a spark or the momentum of a match needed to be turned, it seemed that time after time, she turned to Savannah Shelton.

A defensive specialist and sometimes setter, Shelton, who often started, more often than not supplied what Solomon saw her team needed on their way to a program-record 28 wins.

“No matter where we needed her on the court, Savannah would go there,” Solomon recalled. “We might get the occasional ‘have-you-lost-your-mind’ look but she would put a smile on her face and go play wherever we needed her to play.”

And it was that kind of can-do attitude that brought Shelton to Wednesday’s ceremony at Bryant High School where she joined three of her teammates in signing offers to continue their volleyball careers and their educations in college.

For Shelton, the daughter of Melonie Shelton, the choice was Philander Smith College in Little Rock.

“I started on NCSA,” she said when asked about the process of getting to that point, referencing the National Collegiate Scouting Association. “It’s like a recruiting website and I met my top recruiter. All these colleges started talking to me.

“There was a school in Georgia that was talking to me and then there was also a school in Texas that was talking to me, Southwestern University,” Shelton continued. “I picked Philander because they offered me a full ride. Who could pass that up? I really liked being closer to the house. I’m only like 30 minutes from here. And then, also, the team is like a family unit and I wanted that for my team. I want it to be like my home away from home when I went to college.

“But without NCSA, I wouldn’t even have talked to the Philander coach,” she emphasized.

“As Savannah grew, she became a role model for younger players to look to,” Solomon related. “She was someone they felt they could go to for advice and with questions that they had about where to be on the court.”

Shelton started playing volleyball in the seventh grade.

“It was like two years and I figured, why not pursue this? Because I’d been playing for a while,” she said.

“One of my favorite memories of Savannah will always be, when we were playing at Arkansas Baptist, she was serving point after point, ace after ace,” Solomon recounted. “As a coach, you definitely want your players to continue doing well but also kind of want to be humble when you know you’re playing against a team that cannot defend a ball.

“So what we started doing was telling Savannah to serve to different places where we really thought she was going to miss some serves,” the coach continued. “We were thinking, ‘Well, let’s get better.’ And she was hitting every spot we told her to serve to.

“Finally, we just said, ‘You know, Savannah, start jump serving,’” she related. “And from that day on, she’s been a jump server and has had an incredibly strong serve. If I’m not mistaken, she had about 20 points in that one game — not the whole match, that one game.”

Overall, Shelton had 324 serving attempts her senior season and served up 35 aces. On defense, she had 285 serve receptions and 146 digs.

Regarding her education, she said, “I want to major in Biology because I want to be a vet. I want to do that then move to a vet school, probably Texas.”

Asked about the key to getting to the point of being recruited to play volleyball in college, Shelton said, “My determination and my hard work. I had it in my head that I was going to make my mom proud. I’m pretty sure I did that.”

No doubt.

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