GCC's Hurley has Division I volleyball future
Shannon Hurley remembers her knee didn't hurt.
The Greensburg Central Catholic star rose for a kill during a club volleyball tournament in Florida in June 2011, then landed awkwardly, sending her sprawling to the ground.
“(My knee) just gave out,” she said. “It didn't hurt — I always say that my butt hurt worse than my knee did. But I was down, (and) I knew I couldn't get up. ... The next morning, I woke up and my whole entire leg was twice the size of my other leg.”
A family vacation after the tournament delayed the official diagnosis, but when it came, it was the worst possible news: Hurley had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
The injury wiped out Hurley's junior season and threw a wrench into the recruiting process for the Division I prospect. In the spring, she emailed about 30 Division I coaches expressing her interest in their programs. A few responded positively, and Hurley ended up committing to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C.
“Being on the campus, I completely felt like that was where I wanted to be,” she said. “Even before I got the offer, I said, ‘Mom, I love this place.' And luckily enough, I got the offer.”
Hurley can't officially sign with Winthrop until the early-signing period begins in mid-November, but she has no plans to change her commitment.
For now, she's focused on another goal: leading Greensburg Central Catholic to a title.
The senior quickly reclaimed her spot at outside hitter for the Centurions (13-0), the top team in Section 1-A. Hurley, who says her left knee feels stronger now than it did before the injury, leads the team in kills and holds a hitting percentage of over 50 percent.
“I can't imagine being where we are without her,” coach Heather Meyer said. “She leads not only with her playing ability, she's also really stepped up now as a vocal leader (along with Alexa Kacin). Shannon's looked up to because of her playing ability.”
Even though she couldn't play, Hurley stayed around the team last season, watching from the sidelines as the Centurions finished tied for third in Section 1-A and lost in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
While Hurley said it was difficult to watch the team knowing she couldn't help, she thinks the year off made her a more intelligent player.
“The simple mistakes that we make — like missed serves or to shank a free ball pass — those are the things that I understand (now) why coaches get so angry,” she said. “And I really think that helped me be a better volleyball player this year.
“Even now, I'm like, ‘Oh, wow, I just made a really stupid mistake. I know why coach is so mad.' ”
Those mistakes have been kept to a minimum. Meyer said the senior improved her jump serve and her defense to become a more all-around player, which Hurley believes will help her in college.
With the closure of Elderton High School, last year's WPIAL champion, Greensburg Central Catholic looks to be one of the favorites in Class A. Hurley anchors a team that returned every starter from last season.
“(Coach) said this is the year for us to go really far, which it is,” Hurley said. “I'm not the team this year. I think everybody on the team is an individual component, and we need everybody to be successful this year. ... I see us progressing still. We haven't reached the peak yet.”
Hurley's goal for college is to earn a starting spot and be named Big South Freshman of the Year.
Meyer doesn't doubt her player's ability — or her will — to make that happen.
“Shannon is a player,” Meyer said. “She wants to play, she wants to win, she wants to do well. She's hard on herself. She comes from a great family ... they know what they want to do. They're not quitters — they strive to get what they want.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.