Sh’nia Gordon was born April 9, 1997, in Ocala, Florida. As a young girl growing up in a military family, Sh’nia — better known as Nia — has called many places home: Florida, Germany, Virginia, Texas and, currently, Richmond Hill.
Gordon, a natural athlete, excelled in a variety of sports. Her family always played a role in her success. She credited her stepfather, Joseph Schwendemann, who she said “really saw something” in her early on.
“He was a good motivator and took the time to practice with me,” Gordon said.
She first started playing organized sports at age 6, but it wasn’t until fifth grade that soccer became her focus. She said something just clicked, and she realized soccer was her sport.
As years progressed, so did her soccer abilities. As a high-school sophomore in Texas, Gordon already was being heavily recruited to play college soccer by a number of big-name schools were aiming to lock her in. Texas A&M University, University of Florida, Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University are just a few who set their sights on her.
Over the last two years, Gordon acknowledges, moving has been challenging, but she stayed focused on remaining a varsity soccer starting player.
“I’ve had to work very hard to earn that,” she said.
Learning new systems of play and making new friendships are a big part of transitioning from one school to the next.
One of her greatest joys of moving to Richmond Hill was the friendships she gained quickly. Gordon said soccer played a huge role in that. This team, she said, developed a connection and is truly like family.
“(Assistant) Coach (Patrick) Means has really impacted me,” Gordon said.
He made sure others noticed her talents, she added.
The Wildcats’ soccer season ended May 8 with a 3-1 loss to North Atlanta in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals, ending their record-setting season at 19-1.
Gordon scored 59 goals and had 12 assists. She received honors such as Savannah Player of the Year, Wetherington Chiropractic Clinic Player of the Week and Richmond Hill Best Offensive player.
On Saturday, Gordon and her fellow Richmond Hill High classmates will graduate. Many move away.
Gordon said she already has begun working on the next phase of her life. She is focused on making sure she is in top shape for her future in soccer. Gordon will officially leave the Hill in July.
After years of being recruited, it came down to one choice and one signature. Gordon accepted a full soccer scholarship to West Virginia University. Once she arrives on campus, she will step back into the familiar challenge of making new friends, joining a new team and earning a coveted starting position.
When it came down to the final choice of where to attend, Gordon says on a lighter note, “I like the weather there.” But she listed other, more-important factors in her decision.
“They had a great team atmosphere in West Virginia. The coaches seemed really nice, and the facility was amazing,” she said.
The transition will be challenging, of course, but the style the Mountaineers play is close to what Gordon is used to playing. This, she said, is a huge motivation and gives her peace of mind as she takes the next step in soccer.
The level of play will be much higher, and the game will be much faster at the Division I college level.
“I want to be the best in all I do,” Gordon said. “When I see others working hard and succeeding, that really drives me.”
With this mindset, and the clock ticking down on her time in Richmond Hill, Gordon said she is grateful for the last two years and knows Richmond Hill High has prepared her for what lies ahead.
Gordon aspires to continue working hard and one day secure a starting position as a professional soccer player. Going overseas to play soccer would be a dream come true.
Beyond college and soccer, Gordon envisions working in the engineering field, getting married and having children.
But for now, Gordon is all soccer and all business as she embarks on the next level of her athletic career.