ABERDEEN — On every championship-level team, there are the starters and there are the finishers. One gets the squad going, the other racks up the points.
That’s true on a Warner squad that earned yet another state title; it’s true on a Northwestern squad that spent the entire season atop the Class B rankings and reached a third straight state title match.
And it’s true on this year’s edition of the Class B All-State Volleyball team, as selected by the South Dakota Volleyball Coaches Association.
Warner and Northwestern, perennial powerhouses in the volleyball realm, both put two players each on the first team. Madlyn Groft and Riley Grandpre were the Wildcat selections, while the Monarchs put Laura Ochsner and Ashley Fischbach aboard. They were joined by Hanna Reiff of Chester Area, Peyton Melius of Faulkton and Taylee Indahl of Burke — all state tournament participants, and all members of the all-state tournament team.
Second-team all-state selections include Shaylee DeBeer of Deubrook Area, Jeryn Christensen of Arlington, Jadon Wages of Chester Area, Cylver Lurz of Philip and Abigail Grabowska of Ipswich.
Honorable mention picks include Faith’s Mikenzy Miller, Ethan’s Jada Plastow and Karly Gustafson, Langford Area’s Ady Dwight, Kimball/White Lake’s Darby Deffenbaugh, and Waverly-South Shore’s Ali Kranz.
Below is a capsule-style look at each player named to the First Team All-State squad.
Ashley Fischbach, Warner (Sr., OH)
Though surrounded by a number of weapons, Fischbach was Warner’s go-to choice when points were on the line. The senior racked up more than 400 kills and nearly 375 digs on the season. She also was in on 24 blocks at the net.
“Ashley is a very talented athlete who dramatically improved her role this season,” said Warner coach Kari Jung. “She has a tremendous ability to see the opponent’s court and place the ball for a kill. When we needed points, we knew we could go to her to finish plays.”
Riley Grandpre, Northwestern (Sr., MB)
Grandpre was half of Northwestern’s twin power-front, playing a significant role for the Wildcats at the net. A senior headed to Dakota State, Grandpre finished her season with more than 400 kills and 85 blocks and her career with a 137-9 overall record.
“Riley not only wanted the ball in tough situations but loved the challenge of putting the ball down even with everyone keying on her,” said Northwestern coach Nora Groft. “I am very proud of the kind of volleyball player she has become, but I am most proud of the kind of person she has grown to be. We will miss her very much next year but know she will take her work ethic and passion with her and continue to develop at DSU.”
Madalyn Groft, Northwestern (Jr., Setter)
One of just two juniors and the only setter selected to the squad, Madalyn Groft played the part of the heartbeat of the Wildcats throughout the season. The setter ran the offense for Northwestern, but had the ability to go up for a kill when the opportunity arose, plus was fourth on the team in blocks. Nearly 100 of her 1,131 total assists this season came during the state tournament. She also finished the season with 77 service aces, 275 digs and 29 blocks.
“Madalyn spent considerable time watching film and picking apart team defenses and blocking schemes this season so that she could get the ball to the open hitter as well as attack to an open part of the court herself,” said coach Nora Groft. “Her increased volleyball IQ allowed us to run an up-tempo offense and get the ball to one of our many attackers.”
Taylee Indahl, Burke (Jr., OH)
Indahl, the other junior named to the first team, was an integral part of a Burke squad that made a huge post-season run, going from a 10th seed in the SoDak 16 to a fifth place finish at the state tournament — in essence, pulling off three straight upsets for its highest-ever finish at the state tournament. Indahl finished with 554 kills, 32- digs and 67 service aces for the Cougars this season. She also holds the school record for single-season and career kills and was the very first Burke player to be named to the all-state tournament team.
“Taylee was a huge part of our success this season, as she was one of our go-to hitters,” said Cougar coach Billie Jo Indahl. “She is such a versatile player who sees the court so well as she plays all the way around! She does a nice job of reading the defense to know where to hit the ball on the court, making for a very strong offensive attack.”
Peyton Melius, Faulkton (So., OH)
Melius is the only sophomore on the first team after helping Faulkton to a record-setting season. Faulkton reached the state tournament for just the second time, first since 2008, and won its first — and only — state tournament match, largely behind Melius’s 6-rotation play. Melius was one of the top attackers in the state tournament, finishing with 60 total kills over 12 sets played.
“Peyton is a very hard worker,” said Faulkton coach Mallory Schlechter. “She is always trying to be the best she can be no matter where she is on the court. This season, Peyton became someone we really began to rely on. She always managed to find a rhythm with her hitting and was someone we always knew could get us a kill in big game situations. She also was a strong back row player for us and even became one of our lead diggers.”
Hanna Reiff, Chester Area (Sr., Libero)
Reiff was an anchor for the Flyers all season long, racking up more than 800 digs during the regular season and another 112 during the state tournament. A senior headed to Northern State next fall, Reiff handled the back row business with relative ease for a Chester Area team that had high expectations for itself throughout the season.
Reiff and the Flyers finished fourth at the state tournament last month.
Laura Ochsner, Warner (Sr., Libero)
While Fischbach manned the front line for the Monarchs, Ochsner anchored the back line, providing a solid framework for the Warner offense in which to operate. Ochsner picked up her 1,000th career dig midway through the season, and was second only to Reiff in the state tournament in terms of digs. Ochsner finished the season with 607 digs and 47 service aces.
“Laura quietly leads by example and is the type of player any coach loves to have in the gym,” Jung said. “She shows up every day with a great attitude and an incredible work ethic. Her consistent serve-receive and defense were a big reason why our offense was so successful.”