Josey Griess feels like she’s living in setters’ heaven.
That’s understandable, given the solid group of hitters the Shiloh Christian setter gets to work with day in and day out.
Griess, a junior, quarterbacks a balanced offensive attack that has keyed the Skyhawks’ return to the Class B volleyball state tournament after a one-year hiatus. She has recorded 802 assists this season while setting up, among others, Liz Larson, Jesse Ebach, Graycin Wanzek and Brittan Grubb, who have 258, 242, 241 and 124 kills, respectively.
“It’s definitely a luxury. When I get a pass I know I have a lot of different options in the front row and in the back,” Griess said. “Having lots of options makes us really hard to defend. If the other team keys on one of our hitters, someone else usually steps up.”
The Skyhawks, 31-4-1, will take on No. 3-seeded Thompson in the state tournament quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at the Fargodome. The match is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Griess was a freshman when Shiloh made its very first state tournament appearance in 2015.
“It’s a great feeling making it this far. Getting to the state tournament is every team’s goal,” Griess said. “We knew from the beginning that we had the talent to get there. Now we have a chance to play the best teams in the state, and hopefully we’ll play our best volleyball.”
Griess became Shiloh's regular setter in 2016 and helped a young Skyhawks team to the Region 5 tournament championship match. Several members of that team returned this season, and with high expectations.
“We had high hopes last year, especially after going to state the year before … but it didn’t work out,” Griess said. “Losing in the region championship match really pushed us this year. We didn’t want to experience that again. We worked hard every day and it paid off.”
Lisa Wingerter, who shares Shiloh’s head coaching duties with Penny Kaldor, said Griess has been a model of leadership and consistency at the setter position.
“The setter runs the offense and Josey has done an outstanding job all year long,” Wingerter said. “We run a quick offense and we try to get both the front row and the back row involved. Each hitter is different, and Josey consistently gets the ball to where they like it.”
A balanced offense is just one reason why the Skyhawks are in the state tournament. Serving and defense have also played huge roles in Shiloh's success.
Ebach leads the team in aces with 61. Griess, Rachel Mischel and Larson have 60, 44 and 43, respectively. Kelsey Mischel has a 97.3 serve percentage, while Rachel Mischel serves at a 96.7 percent clip.
Defensively, Rachel Mischel has 458 digs, Kelsey Mischel 318, Grubb 242 and Ebach 232. Wanzek has 50 blocks, Larson 45 and Ebach 25.
“It all starts with serving. It's led to lots of points for us, and we haven’t given up many because of service errors,” Wingerter said. “Our blocking wasn’t one of our strengths at the beginning of the year, but that part of our game has really come on strong. And our back row has been solid with Rachel and Kelsey. We’ve been very good in all areas. That's what it takes to get to the state tournament.
“The girls are excited,” she continued. “They've been playing very well and they can’t wait to play that first match on Thursday.”
No. 2 Langdon-Edmore-Munich and Watford City will begin Thursday's quarterfinal round at 1 p.m. No. 1 and two-time defending state champion LaMoure-Litchville-Marion will face Central Cass at 5 p.m., and No. 4 Minot Our Redeemer's and No. 5 Dickinson Trinity will meet at 7 p.m.