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20130927 Shania-GilpinMISSION - Mission Veterans Memorial middle blocker Shania Gilpin almost gave up playing volleyball, and sports all together, if it wasn’t for her mother.

Gilpin was involved in track, basketball and volleyball at a young age through the local boys and girls club and school. However, she realized she wasn’t very good at them when she reached junior high school and wanted to quit.

“I loved track and basketball, but as it turned out in the end I wasn’t any good, but I was at volleyball, and we can thank my mom for that,” Gilpin said. “She told me, ‘you are not quitting volleyball.’ I guess she saw something I didn’t see in me.”

Even after her mother convinced her to keep playing volleyball, she was afraid of the ball coming anywhere near her vicinity and preferred a comfortable spot on the bench. That’s changed.

“Since I was a freshman, I was scared,” Gilpin explained. “I didn’t know what I had. As the years have gone by, I’m hungry for the ball, it’s like my best friend, and having the team show me what to do, I’ve changed tremendously since my freshman year. Now I understand what the coach wants from me to make it to the playoffs.”

Gilpin’s mother isn’t the only influence and support she’s had to achieve success in volleyball. Her father, David Gilpin, is her No. 1 fan and is also the Mission Veterans athletic coordinator.

“He’s always been the one to push me, and that’s how we understand each other and have such a good bond,” Gilpin said about her father. “Having him around has been great. He’s my No. 1 fan. I can come home happy or sad and he’ll understand because he’s part of an athletic program and understands athletes. He’s really pushed me to be the person I am today.”

Gilpin has developed into a prolific volleyball player and a leader on and off the court for the Lady Patriots. Under Mission Veterans 12-year head coach Diana Lerma’s guidance, Gilpin has also helped lead Mission Veterans to an undefeated season thus far and the No. 1 ranking in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 4A state volleyball poll.

“With her upbringing, she’s an overall athlete, and with the understanding and support of her family, she understands the concept of what hard work really means,” said coach Lerma. “The leadership she’s brought to the team, participating in the summer conditioning program with the other varsity players, it was important for her to participate and they were able to go over the whole six weeks. She was going through what everyone else was going through, and that makes her a better leader.”

“Finding out we were No. 1 was exciting,” added Gilpin. “No one ever had that here. Now we are ranked and we want to stay that way. I want to finish my senior year knowing we have it and the most exciting part is knowing that we have the team to be the No. 1 team in 4A.”

The hard work and sacrifice has more than paid off for the senior middle blocker and Lady Patriots.

In addition to undefeated summer league and current high school seasons, and No. 1 state ranking, Gilpin collected some early season hardware during the Lady Patriots’ success at the Corpus Christi, Laredo and Mission tournaments, where she either owned or shared part of the MVP award with teammate Gabby Lerma.

Gilpin also verbally committed to play for The University of Pan American’s volleyball program next year.

“That’s not even all me,” Gilpin said. “If I could, I would give every single one of the girls on my team that award. I do well, but without them there would be no way possible. It’s really not just me, it’s the whole team, but they only have one trophy.”

Through last week, Gilpin has amassed 336 kills, 48 aces, 170 digs, 29 solo blocks, and 19 block assists.

“She’s well aware that this is her last year and she has to bring out her very best,” Lerma said. “It started last year with four freshmen on the team, it was getting the girls to get the job done, understanding them, and raising their level of play.”

Previously an outside hitter, Gilpin led by example and went out of her comfort zone by making the move to the middle blocker position in order to do what was necessary to help the team this year.

“I told her that the team needed her in the center and it would help the team more, she accepted it and took it to the next level,” Lerma said. “Blockers here in the Valley are not as tall as in other places and she can out jump even the middle blockers she’s up against. As a player, she understands and listens to the coach. She’s adjusted well with what the coach tells her and what needs to be done in order for us to go farther in playoffs this year.”

Mission Veterans wrap up the first half of the District 32-4A season on Saturday, Sept. 28 with a 1 p.m. away match at PSJA Southwest. The second half of the district season begins on Oct. 1 with a 7 p.m. away game at Mercedes.

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