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Mary shroll comes from a "big volleyball family – obviously"

Taylyn Hadley Avatar
October 22, 2023

The year is 2015 and Macey Gardner is spearheading the Arizona State volleyball squad as an outside hitter, propelling them to a 19-13 season and securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Gardner, a senior out of Gilbert, Arizona is continuing to rack up the accolades in her final year with the Sun Devil program and is breaking ASU’s all-time record of career kills with 1,882.

In the crowd to witness Gardner’s record-setting journey, you can spot a youthful Mary Shroll, enthusiastically cheering for the maroon and gold team.

“I grew up coming to so many ASU games,” Mary said. “We’d go as a team in my club and my high schools… so (I) definitely grew up an ASU fan for volleyball.”

Residing a mere 10 minutes from what was then called Wells Fargo Arena, now known as Desert Financial, conveniently allowed her to frequently be present at games to support her hometown team.

At the same time, the teen was in the midst of paving her own route towards becoming a proficient volleyball player, balancing club teams and high school teams while on her way to collecting equally impressive accomplishments to the player she watched while in the stands.

Balancing two kinds of volleyball

During her three-year tenure at Tempe Preparatory Academy, Mary showcased impressive leadership by topping the charts in eight out of the ten tracked statistics including kills per set, hitting percentage, digs per set, aces per set, and receptions.

As a freshman, Mary found herself alongside her sister Taylor, who was a high school senior at the time. Together, they proved to be a dominant force for the Tempe program, with Taylor achieving top-three rankings in all ten tracked statistical categories.

Mary continued to dominate amongst her Tempe Prep team the following years, smashing her career bests during her junior season with 7.8 kills per set, 50 total blocks, 402 digs and 73 service aces. 

After a dominant upperclassman showing, Mary transferred to Corona Del Sol halfway through her junior year to finish out high school.

Ranked at No. 2 in the state of Arizona in serving aces, the senior helped lead her team to a first-place finish in the 6A Central Division and an appearance in the 6A State Championship game where they fell short to Xavier College Prep.

Having confronted the obstacles of being a 5-foot-8 outside hitter and excelling at the highest levels, she recognized that the competition she had encountered had effectively readied her for the next phase of her journey.

“There’s always a ton of amazing volleyball athletes from Arizona,” Mary said. “I was lucky to play with a lot of them. Having that experience at a high-level high school was really enjoyable (and) was really fun.”

In search of what was next for her, Mary had another decision to take into consideration when choosing where she wanted to continue her journey.

This was due to Mary’s passion for indoor volleyball as well as her avid enthusiasm for beach volleyball.

“I grew up playing beach along with indoor,” Mary said. “I played on a couple club teams in Arizona and I’d always be out in California for the summer tournaments and I really, really enjoyed the sport.”

Beach volleyball is so similar yet so different from indoor as Mary would put it, making it hard to find colleges that actively offered both.

Mary needed somewhere that offered both. She did not want to leave one passion behind for another.

Here’s where Loyola Marymount University enters the picture.

Life never comes without twists and turns

Out of Corona Del Sol, Mary made the decision to move to Los Angeles and take on a dual position on both the indoor volleyball and beach volleyball teams.  

“I was really looking to get out of state for my undergrad and Loyola was a great school,” Mary said. “I think that (getting out of state) was definitely something I was pretty set on (and I) obviously loved being by the beach.”

Although at one time a necessity, beach volleyball soon fell out of frame for the Mary after a few unfortunate injuries and challenging decisions that COVID-19 brought along.

So, she stuck to focusing on indoor volleyball ­– and it is a good thing that she did. 

Mary made the move from an outside hitter to a libero and defensive specialist at LMU. After medical redshirting her freshman year, she came away with two starts in eight games and finished with 32 assists, five aces and 129 digs in her second year with the program.

In the subsequent year, Mary found her permanent role with the Lions and competed in nearly every match over the following three seasons, ending with 884 career digs, 223 assist, 64 aces and 46 matches with double-digit digs.

In addition, she helped the Lions appear in the 2022 NCAA Tournament where they lost in the first round against Oregon.

Her time at LMU had been all that she had wished for, twists and turns included. She attributes her current opportunities to the invaluable experience she gained there.

“I’m grateful to everyone I met throughout – those are some of my best friends,” Mary said. “I got to live and play with them. I’m super grateful for that time in my life and super grateful for everything that that did for me and all the opportunities that came from that.”

While most people do not plan for fifth and sixth years at college, Mary certainly never imagined she would graduate and tack on an extra two years to her academics to pursue a master’s degree. 

On top of a pursuit for a master’s degree, a medical redshirt her freshman year and an extra year of eligibility from Covid-19 gave her an added fifth and sixth year of athletic availability. 

Then, an opportunity presented itself for her to join her hometown program and play for the volleyball team she grew up watching from the stands.

Without hesitation, she seized the opportunity.

“Big volleyball family – obviously”

With one degree already completed, Mary made the decision that her volleyball journey was far from finished and returned to her hometown of Tempe to become a part of the Sun Devil Volleyball program.

“I think that’s what makes this experience so full circle for me,” Mary said. “(It’s) just super cool to be back home and now (be) on the other side of that.”

After having a little bit of time away from home, Mary views The Valley in which she grew up in with a new sense of admiration. 

Having her family by her side, offering unwavering support during her new collegiate journey is an added bonus to her experience.

“It’s been just awesome being back in Tempe and having that Tempe pride,” Mary said “My parents are huge supporters. My mom is at every single game now that we’re home at ASU, so it was a super fun decision.” 

Nowadays, her mother, Tifni Shroll, can be found in the bleachers at Desert Financial Arena, but there was a time when she, too, was a collegiate volleyball player, just like her daughter.

Only, Tifni was tad bit more north, in rival colors of blue and gold.

Once a Northern Arizona graduate, now, Tifni is an ASU alumnus as well after she earned her certificate in full stack web development from ASU in 2023.

Along with having a volleyball player in her mother, Mary’s two sisters also have collegiate volleyball experience. 

As a 5-foot-9 outside hitter and designated hitter, her elder sister Kaitlin competed for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University from 2014 to 2018. Additionally, her sister Taylor, who was once her teammate at Tempe Prep, served as an outside hitter for Benedictine College from 2016 to 2020.

“Big volleyball family – obviously,” Mary said with a laugh.

Immersed in the sport from a young age, Mary embraced it early on and developed a strong competitive spirit, battling with her sisters while simultaneously serving as each other’s biggest fans.

“They really pushed me to be the best and were huge supporters in kind of pursuing a higher level,” Mary said. “I think I always knew that I wanted to pursue it in college, so (there) was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do that. So just having them and obviously them going through kind of that same experience was super supportive and super great.”

In addition to her parents’ excitement over Mary joining the Sun Devils, her sisters were also amazed by the tremendous strides she had made, solidifying her position as arguably the biggest volleyball star in the family.

“My sisters grew up watching ASU volleyball also and they commented (on) just seeing me in ASU colors and being back home is just super cool for all of them,” Mary said. “So, I think that’s just something that I’m very, very grateful for.”

Being in ASU colors on the court after wearing them in the stands cannot be more surreal for the graduate student. 

It’s difficult for her to fully express the incredible sensation of being the starting libero on a Division I team, especially one that she grew up just ten minutes away from.

“My sisters grew up watching ASU volleyball also and they commented (on) just seeing me in ASU colors and being back home is just super cool for all of them,” Mary said. “So, I think that’s just something that I’m very, very grateful for.”

“It’s been a super easy transition”

In her second to last season, Mary could not have asked for more successful and fortunate circumstances. 

The Sun Devils are aligning themselves up nicely for a shot at the NCAA Tournament and through some of their top ranked defeats, are showing that they will go far.

“So far our record shows the season has been amazing­ – not only does the record show it, but being on this team in particular, I think is something really special,” Mary said. “We just gotta keep being relentless in every single game (and) every single day in practice.”

After three previous losing seasons for the program, Mary is thrilled to be a part of the rebuild this year with only nine returning players and a brand new coaching staff.

Everything is new to Mary, but everything is new to most of the members of the program. Thus, making the deep bonds she has formed during her fifth year in university a bonus.

One that is often a bittersweet aspect of collegiate-level sports because there are constantly moving parts with players coming and going.   

“I know we’re going to be losing a couple of seniors which is really sad because I’ve gotten close to all of them,” Mary said. “Just having a super tight knit team, super close girls, everyone brings something different to the table, really speaks (for) itself.”

The sadness wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the program’s commitment to recruiting players who genuinely care about ASU’s culture and the team’s improvement.

Mary emphasized that the trust they have in each other, fostered by this approach, serves as a powerful motivation for them to strive for success, driven by their collective commitment to one another.

“We couldn’t be doing what we are doing without that,” Mary said. “Playing as a team and playing together with trust and all that comes with that. It’s been a super easy transition honestly, just amazing girls, amazing staff, overall, just great people.”

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