Her final season at Utah State is shaping up to be a special one.
And it couldn’t be more fitting, because Shay Sorensen bleeds Aggie blue.
The senior is a member of the USU volleyball team and can’t think of another place she would rather be right now. The feeling is mutual, as Aggie head coach Grayson DuBose has nothing but positive comments when talking about Sorensen.
“She is just such a good kid, a good person and has a good personality,” DuBose said. “What you see is what you get. She just works hard and busts her tail. ... It’s been a fun four years with her. I have really enjoyed coaching her, because every day she tries to get better in practice and tries to make her teammates better, which is really cool.”
Sorensen will be playing her final home match Wednesday night in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum and doesn’t really want to even think about it. In fact, when the subject of the season finale against Texas State is brought up, she gets a bit emotional.
“It’s hard knowing that this is my last game in the Spectrum; I almost cry thinking about it,” Sorensen said. “I just love Utah State volleyball and being a part of it. To see it almost ending is sad. ... If it’s going to end, it should end like this.”
The Aggies have already wrapped up their first-ever Western Athletic Conference regular season title. The team would like nothing more than reaching 20 wins before heading to the league tournament.
“It has been the best senior season anyone could ask for,” Sorensen said. “The team we have, I love them all. We have such great team chemistry. We all get along and are good friends. And we’ve been winning and doing well, so that makes it fun, too.”
While going to the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore is a career highlight that she “will never forget, ever,” the 6-foot-1 opposite side hitter called this season her favorite memory at USU.
How would the daughter of Michael and Sheila Sorensen like to be remembered?
“Someone who was passionate about what I did, someone who reached out to the community and tried to get involved that way,” Sorensen answered.
The senior has been plenty involved at USU and around Cache Valley. She is a student mentor for Aggie athletes and the vice president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, which does a lot of community outreach in schools around the valley. She recently spoke to a packed gymnasium about staying drug free.
“Because I play for Utah State athletics, little kids think we are awesome,” Sorensen said. “It’s fun to help them out and be a positive role model.”
That attitude is much appreciated by the Aggie coach.
“It’s hard to put into words, because she has meant so much to this team in such a variety of ways,” DuBose said. “She is wonderful on the court, but if you exclude that, she keeps our team unified, she keeps us together. She organizes fun activities. She is a wonderful teammate.”
The 21-year-old also has quite the fan support at home matches. There are always a bunch of Aggies in the audience with No. 10 shirts on, going crazy for a certain USU player from North Ogden.
“That’s my family,” Sorensen said. “They have supported me since I was just little playing volleyball. It means a lot to me.”
Her immediate family of mother, father, two brothers and two sisters has grown as members of the Cache Valley community have came to matches to cheer for No. 10. Aunts, uncles, a grandmother and a cousin also add to the fan base.
“It’s been fun to get to know people in the community that I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t play volleyball,” Sorensen said. “It’s fun they like to come and watch and it’s fun to talk with them after.”
This past summer her parents moved to Cache Valley and now call Smithfield home.
Sorensen almost didn’t become an Aggie. She grew up a Ute fan as her mother had played volleyball at Utah.
“Glad it didn’t work out,” Sorensen quipped about playing for the Utes.
She actually didn’t get recruited by any Division I schools after tearing an ACL during basketball as a junior in high school. She originally committed to play volleyball at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
“It’s kind of crazy how it all ended up,” said Sorensen, who knew DuBose having attended some USU summer camps. “... One day I came up here and just showed up in his office and said, ‘Hey, is that walk-on spot still available?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and we worked it out.”
“We didn’t have a scholarship, but I told her we could take her as a walk-on,” DuBose said. “She just got better, better and better.”
Yes, she has. Sorensen has played in 98 matches during her career and seen action in 334 sets. She has a team-leading 11 double-doubles this season and with 862 career kills needs just one more to break into the top-10 list in school history. Sorensen is already ninth in block assists (282) and 10th in total blocks (284).
“I was very fortunate to get offered a scholarship my sophomore year, that I’ve had since,” Sorensen said. “I never would have thought it would end up like it has, but looking back it is totally what it was meant to be. I loved it. Being here is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
There is no argument from the coach.
“She is just steady,” DuBose said. “You can count on her to hit a certain percentage, you can count on her to get her kills. We match her up with the best hitter on the other side, so she can shut them down and she has.”
During her first two years at USU, Sorensen took on the role of energizer bunny. She would get excited about every point and try and spark her teammates. The past two seasons the exercise science major has evolved into a leader.
“I’ve tried to be more of a vocal leader,” Sorensen said. “In the past I’ve tried to lead by example.”
What gets her pumped up the most, a kill or a block?
“When the game is tight, a good block gives you more momentum than a good kill,” Sorensen said. “So getting a roof is just unbelievable. But I do like to kill the ball, so either one I will take.”
Twice she has been named WAC Player of the Week this year and has received other accolades from the league during her career, including all-academic honors every year.
“I’ve tried to make the most of my education, as well,” Sorensen said. “... I’ve put my whole heart and soul into Utah State volleyball for four years.
“... I always knew I wanted to play college volleyball, but I did love basketball, too. ... Josselyn (White) and I have joked about after our senior year, we will just join the (Aggie) basketball team. I don’t think that will happen, but it would be sweet. Maybe I should talk to coach Fink(beiner).”
While her plans for the future are wide open right now, she is focused on the next month.
“I am so excited for the next few weeks for this team,” Sorensen said. “I think we are still hungry. ... We want to go to the NCAAs really bad. I just think we can go do something when we get to the NCAAs this time.”
That would indeed cap a special season for Sorensen.