A smash hit for Bruins

Broadneck senior Kanishia Sheppard might not look powerful, but she has made a huge impact for the Bruins' volleyball team.


You watch Broadneck's Kanishia Sheppard, all 5 feet 9, 135 pounds of her, smash the volleyball and you wonder, "How does she generate so much power?"

And make no mistake, Sheppard is a power hitter, frequently sending the ball whistling by opponents. A returning All-County senior hitter for the Bruins, she hits the ball as hard as anyone in Anne Arundel County and perhaps in the entire metro area.

So, how does one who's so slight of build crush a ball like that?

"I guess, if you look at her, you wouldn't assume she can hit as hard as she does," said Stephanie Carey, the Bruins' four-year varsity setter and a second-team All-Metro selection last year.

"Most people assume, the bigger and stronger-looking you are, that you hit the ball harder. But if you are into volleyball, you know, it's not strength as much as it is quickness.

"And Kanishia is extremely quick and that's what makes her hit so hard. She has a very strong arm-swing. She is our go-to person and we know we can always depend on Kanishia even when she is not on her game to place the ball in the court."

Sheppard has been a force in the past three of what has been five consecutive trips to the Class 4A state final by the Bruins. Broadneck won state championships in Sheppard's freshman year (2002) and last season, when she averaged 3.5 kills, 1.5 blocks and 2.0 aces per game. The Bruins also won a state title in 2001.

Her ability to overpower opponents was never more evident than her performance Oct. 20, when she pounded a school-record 27 kills to lead the Bruins to a 3-2 victory over neighborhood-rival Severna Park.

Her career high before that match was 18 against South River last year.

"She had a great game," said Severna Park coach Julie Allen, a former All-Metro and All-American hitter at Severna Park and UNC-Wilmington. "We couldn't handle Kanishia on the outside."

That win clinched a berth for the Bruins in tomorrow's county championship match, set for 7:15 p.m. at Severna Park.

Broadneck coach Romonzo Beans agrees with his stepdaughter Carey on Sheppard's quick release but adds, "Kanishia is all muscle. There is not much body fat on her, and she uses everything she has when she hits.

"She arches her back into her swing [and] has great hang time where she is able to adjust to different [defensive] sets. A lot of what she does is genetics."

Sheppard agrees with her coach, who brought her up to varsity for the playoffs as a freshman and made her a starter in her sophomore year.

"I think how hard I hit comes from my genes," Sheppard said. "My hang time comes naturally, and [Beans] has been my coach since I was 8 or 9 years old. He's taught me how to chase the ball and not to jump too early or too late."

Sheppard, whose father, Lonnie Sheppard, was an All-County running back at Broadneck in 1983 and also wrestled and ran track, says her muscle comes from "doing a lot of push-ups, sit-ups and crunches."

Her father and mother, Melissa, film all of her games for instruction as well as memories.

Beans, who started coaching Sheppard and Carey on his Chesapeake Volleyball Club team in elementary school, believes Sheppard can play in college.

"Absolutely, Kanishia is one of the best, if not the best, hitter I've had at Broadneck," said Beans, who is in his 10th season. "Navy is very interested in her and she wants to do something in aviation. And she pushes the gauntlet. [She] is very coachable, says, `Fix me, make me better.' "

Morgan State, UNC-Wilmington and North Carolina A&T have also showed interest in Sheppard, who is fascinated with aviation but also intrigued with fashion designing.

"I've always wanted to fly a plane," Sheppard said. "I've been on planes, but never flew one myself. And I love to draw dresses. I've been drawing since I was a little kid. I draw prom dresses, wedding dresses. If I don't get into aeronautic engineering and become a pilot, I would like to get into fashion designing."

Sheppard is a team captain along with longtime friend Carey. Together, as two of only four seniors, their leadership has helped the team develop into a state contender once again.

"I try to inspire the younger girls," Sheppard said. "The beginning of the season was kind of frustrating because we didn't know each other, but now we know who can do what. The feeling of winning a state title, the pride you feel with so many people cheering for you, is how I want to go out."

The chemistry between Carey, who sets up everybody, and Sheppard is vital to a potential sixth straight final and possibly a third state title in their careers.

"She's an amazing person," Carey said. "As a captain, the girls know they can go to her. She is very caring and is a mother figure [on the team]. I'm the mean one, and she is the nice one."


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