When Shanice Horn stepped onto the volleyball court at Aiken High, she brought something that was just what the Hornets needed to get over the hump. Not only did she bring her exceptional play, but she brought leadership and a ton of positive energy and attitude.
A big part of Horn's game is playing with emotion and using that emotion to pump up her teammates and motivate themselves to play better; that's simply how she leads.
"Just be you, go out there and have fun, be yourself and let everything loose. I know I always scream and make the weirdest faces. I mean hey, you’re only going to play this sport for how long? Make it worthwhile," Horn said.
You can see that emotion whenever she plays, and the energy only goes up the more successful she and her team are, and this season there was plenty of reason to have all that positive energy.
For her efforts, which were a major contribution to Aiken's Class AAAA state championship, Horn is the Aiken Standard's High School Volleyball Player of the Year.
Not only did Horn lead the Hornets in kills with a 423 on 48.6 percent hiting, she was second on the team with 38 blocks and third in serving percentage.
Primarily a middle hitter, she made strides as an outside hitter. Horn has always worked on her hitting, especially from the outside, particularly with her mother, who has been one of her coaches in previous years. When she came to Aiken, she stepped in and worked with her teammates to help them improve their game as well.
"She came in and (proved) she’s the real deal," Aiken head coach Malynda Young said. "Definitely a big help with our team, not only as a strong player but also a leader. She was always dancing around, just really had a good attitude and was not below doing anything. She was an awesome attribute to the team."
Those strides and improvements have been a major factor in the Hornets' success this season. Aiken went 39-3-3 overall as tied for first place in its region with South Aiken.
The Hornets rolled in the playoffs, sweeping Travelers Rest and York before beating Eastside in five sets and Pickens in the semifinal. In the state championship, Horn had a team-high 25 kills as Aiken swept Myrtle Beach, with Horn getting all three set-point kills. She also had 12 digs in the match for a double-double.
"I’m really happy that all of my playing has come to a positive end with my senior year and ending with such a positive team and with positive people who pushed me and my team to go hard and play hard 24/7," Horn said. "I get to prove who I am and what I am."
Horn transferred to Aiken High after moving to Aiken from Blue Spring, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. She adapted quickly and, rather than talk a big game going in, stepped in and showed how good she was to her team.
"It doesn’t take much time at all to see her on the court and know that she’s a dynamic player," Young said. "She’s one of those players who was a show-me, not a tell-me, which to me is the best kind of leader. Don’t tell me, show me how good you are, and she did that."
You could say she was the missing piece to an Aiken team that came up short in previous seasons. The rest of the senior class for the Hornets lost in the state semifinal in 2013 and 2014 and lost in the quarterfinal in 2015.
This season was different, and Horn was a huge reason why in terms of the stat sheet and the intangibles she brought to the table.
"For the most part, we were pretty deep, and we had the other components there, and she just brought that extra component that was able to push us over the top," Young said of Horn. "She was just a dream, she came in at the perfect time. She had perfect people behind her and my people who were already in place had her behind them."
Next year, Horn will try to use that positive attitude at the next level. The senior signed to play at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, a Division I program that has found success in recent years. Horn will be joining an Islanders team that has won back-to-back Southland Conference championships with perfect slates in league play each year.
After coming in and being such a key component to a winning squad at Aiken, stepping in to fill a similar role as a leader and talented hitter should be old hat for Horn, even at a tougher learning curve at the D-I level.
"I’m definitely going to be the same, have the same personality, same mindset. But at the same time I’m also going to have to play harder, I’m going to have to work harder. I’m going to have to be open minded to learning new things, because I still have things that I need to work on," Horn said. "I’m going to have to be comfortable being uncomfortable."