Athlete feature: Getting to know Shayla Conner

A Nebraska native, senior setter Shayla Conner, has made some big waves this season.

Receiving direction from her mom, Kris, as her high school volleyball coach, Conner found love for the game early. This passion carried her into her current college career, where she has found success.

“I went to a small school, so you just kinda did a little bit of everything. I did volleyball, basketball, tennis, trap shooting, one-act… really anything you can think of,” Conner said. “Volleyball was probably my best sport and my mom coached me so I loved that. That’s probably why I chose it.”

As for her choice to attend Washburn to pursue her volleyball career, Conner says it was a perfect fit.

“I ended up at Washburn because my volleyball coach [Herron] showed interest in me while I was playing club [volleyball]. I came on a visit and I loved the facilities, loved the campus and loved the team right away,” Conner said.

Unsure of what she wants to do with her mass media degree, Conner says she’s going to keep her options open until she finds something she truly enjoys and would like to do for the rest of her life.

“I would like to stay involved in sports somehow. It might be coaching, but maybe more sports marketing or something, too,” Conner said.

Finding herself “at home” in nearby Kansas City, Conner says that she could see herself settling down there someday. 

“There’s just always something to do. New places to go eat, lots of things to see,” Conner said. “It’s just so much fun. I just feel at home there.”

Future planning aside, Conner is focused on her senior season here at Washburn.

“This year in general has been a big accomplishment. It’s tough in Division II to go a whole season with, right now, just two losses,” Conner said. “I’d say that’s a pretty big deal, especially in MIAA. We’ve worked really hard and it shows, so that’s a great feeling.”

Aside from their public success on the court, Conner says that the Ichabods also like to celebrate together off the clock.

“This year our team is the best part [of playing for Washburn] for me. We have a lot of talent but also chemistry wise, we get along really well and that just helps tremendously with the overall experience,” Conner said.

Conner reflects on the beginning of the year when the team participated in a bonding exercise that required going around town on a time budget looking for ingredients to make a pizza. She credits this experience for starting off the season with positive relationships.

Outside of volleyball, Conner spends most of her free time hanging out with her teammates and relaxing. However, when her volleyball days are over, she says she wants to expand her horizons and try new things.

“I really want to travel. I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand,” Conner said. “I want to skydive. I’m afraid of heights so skydiving would be super crazy for me.”

As for hidden talents that the world should know about, Conner says she has plenty.

“I would call myself a professional karaoke performer. I can do rap, anything. I’m really good at [performing] Fergilicious. Other than that, I also have double jointed thumbs,” Conner said. 

Although her college experience has been great, Conner says there’s more she wishes she would have done.

“I regret not putting myself out there more during my college experience. I wish I would have gotten to know more people,” Conner said. “I wish I would have expanded my friendships into the whole campus and not just my fellow athletes. That’s definitely a regret. I have a semester left so hopefully I can walk away feeling fulfilled.” 

As for something she’s passionate about, Conner says that supporting the local community is very important to her.

“I really like going to local events. I like supporting local things altogether. Local music, local art, local restaurants, local venues,” Conner said.

Sophomore libero Faith Rottinghaus has nothing but encouraging things to say about her teammate.

“Shayla is a great teammate and friend. She pushes everyone to be the best both on and off the ocurt. She is there if you ever need anything and always has the best advice,” says Rottinghaus.

Conner and her Ichabods are still on their journey this season. They competed in the MIAA championships on Tuesday, Nov. 6.