LUCAS ― Growing up, Lucas senior Shelby Grover wanted to be what she called '"the barbarian" as a little kid.
It didn't take long for Lucas volleyball coach Paige Sauder, who was the middle school coach at the time, to realize what Grover meant was libero, a defensive specialist position that only plays the back row.
As Grover grew older, stronger and more athletic, her future as a libero wasn't going to happen. She wasn't going to be the one in the different colored jersey, which was the only reason she wanted to play the position in the first place.
It is safe to say, things have worked out for the best anyway.
On Wednesday night in a 3-0 victory over Crestline, Grover became the first player in Lucas High School history to record 1,000 career kills when she sent down a rocket early in the first set. Needing five to achieve the milestone, Grover quickly piled up the kills necessary to get her to the mark.
The milestone moment came nearly a week after she eclipsed the 1,000 career digs mark in a loss to Loudonville on Sept. 22. She is the first player at Lucas to become a 1,000-digs and 1,000-kills player.
"I am just very blessed to have had the opportunity to play for a great club team in MOVA and I've had great coaches and teammates at Lucas who have been instrumental in helping me achieve these accomplishments that I have had," Grover said. "My teammates and coaches are very supportive of me in everything I do and I am blessed to have such teammates who allow me to be successful, and they put in just as much hard work as I do."
Sauder has been around for every single stat and even before. A very close family friend who regularly attends family vacations with the Grovers, Sauder remembers the first time she saw Grover take the volleyball court when she wasn't even old enough to play on the seventh-grade team she was coaching.
"When I took my first coaching job here, she was in sixth grade and she would come to my middle school practices and I looked at her mom and just asked why was Shelby the best athlete on the floor at that age?" Sauder said. "She was a natural from the second she picked up the ball."
On Wednesday night, she proved it. She piled up 17 kills on just 21 attempts and added eight digs, one block, four aces and 12 service points. It was an incredible individual performance that helped the Cubs cruise to their 10th victory of the season as they were never challenged by Crestline.
Grover has 1,012 kills for her career — which is a school record — and Lucas is just waiting to find out the final number before adding her to the record board at the entrance of Lucas Heritage School. She topped Makayla Strassell, who ended her career with 556 kills from 2013-16. It was a leaderboard Grover saw before she was a freshman and the numbers turned into motivation for the youngster.
"It was the way I was raised," Grover said. "I was raised in a competitive family and both of my parents are incredibly supportive and taught me to just go out and do the best I can do every night."
That attitude and effort led her to own seven volleyball school records entering her senior season. She already had the single-season blocks record with 74 last year and has 147 solo and 226 total blocks, which makes her the career blocks leader over Sarah Besenti's 129.
With 1,037 digs, Grover also is on pace to take over the career digs record, eyeing Oliviah Cook's record of 1,127 from 2009-12. Grover owns the record for kills in a game (31), a season (344) and career (1,012 and counting) and is on the board for kill percentage in a game (74.1), kill percentage in a season (52.3), hitting efficiency in a game (.704) and hitting efficiency in a season (.476). She will eventually own the career record in those as well.
But seeing her name on the record board isn't so much of a personal pride thing. It is more of a statement made to the younger generation of Lucas High School athletes.
"I just hope it impacts the little kids who walk through and see that," Grover said. "When I was little, I had a bunch of role models in the different sports I was interested in so I hope to return the favor to the little girls who come watch me play."
Sauder knows the effort Grover puts in and has watched it all pay off over the last four years.
"She has been a six-rotation player since she was a freshman," Sauder said. "She didn't play all six rotations as a freshman and she lets me hear that all the time. But she has always stepped up and did whatever we needed her to do. She started her freshman year with 127 kills and last year she had 344, so the growth is amazing."
But it didn't come easily.
"Her hard work is overlooked," Sauder said. "She is in the gym all the time and plays club ball while still working on her hurdles, which I don't like, but that is what she is going to do in college so she is hurdling on Sundays. People don't see the behind-the-scenes. A lot of people think she gets what she gets because her name is Shelby Grover, but the work she puts in is unreal."
A three-sport All-Ohioan, Grover's best sport is track, earning All-Ohio honors in three events at last year's Division III state track meet. She puts in the work on the track, too, and it is about to pay off. With two Division I college offers on the table already, Grover is set to visit Penn State University and West Virginia University this fall, and might just receive a scholarship offer to run track at the Big Ten and Big 12 schools.
"It is very exciting," Grover said. "I have two offers so far from Kent State and Northern Kentucky. I am very excited to visit Penn State and I am also taking a trip to West Virginia. I am looking forward to seeing what my future holds. Sometimes, I feel like I am not worthy of that attention, but it definitely gives me a huge confidence boost when I am being looked at by Big Ten and Big 12 schools."
Sauder believes those schools will get a steal if Grover decides to sign with either of them. She knows either school will get a hard-working and motivated athlete who is as consistent as they come.
"There is never a night where I am like, 'Dang, Shelby had a really bad game,'" Sauder said. "I have never said that in the last four years. She comes out and does what she is asked, and that is the natural leader in her."
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Lucas' Shelby Grover achieves 1,000-kill, dig milestone in volleyball