For love of the game: Gilbert's Abby Greder has an enduring passion for volleyball
Abby Greder just can't help herself.
Whether she's diving on the floor for a dig, lifting a perfect pass to teammate Julianne Lundvall to set up a kill or placing the ball just inside the line for an ace kill, the Gilbert libero is always expressing joy on the volleyball court. When one of her teammates makes a big kill, block or ace to earn a point it's time for a full-on celebration with smiles, hugs and fist-pumping.
"I just love playing volleyball," Greder said. "When one of my teammates gets a good kill — if I can help to do that by getting the pass or getting the set it is the greatest feeling in the world."
There may not be a more enthusiastic athlete in the entire state. Greder erupts in jubilation after every point — no matter if it's to win the match or when her team is way down in a set.
"I don't know how to explain it," Greder said. "The energy is ridiculous."
Her spirited attitude was on full display for the state to witness last year when Gilbert made its first trip to the state tournament. The Tigers went 27-10 and reached the Class 4A semifinals.
Greder emerged as an outstanding defensive specialist at the libero position during that magical run. She compiled 248 digs in 95 sets as a sophomore.
As a junior Greder has taken her game to a new level.
Through just 60 sets Greder has already racked up 250 digs — an average of 4.2 per set. She ranked sixth in 4A for total digs entering Thursday's match at Ballard.
"She's all over the court," Gilbert head coach Stacy Johnson said. "There aren't too many balls she doesn't pick up. She's definitely our most consistent player right now."
But it isn't her exceptional talent that stands out the most when she steps onto the court.
"She's so enthusiastic," Gilbert senior middle blocker Claire Hakmiller said. "The little energy bunny. I love it."
Greder's passion for playing volleyball played a big role in helping Gilbert reach state last season. It's an even bigger asset this year with the Tigers going through a rebuilding phase.
After losing four all-Raccoon River Conference players off last year's team in Thea Rotto, Nessa Johnson, Erin Bathie and Taylor Grinley, Gilbert has had a tough time winning matches. The Tigers are just 5-17.
Despite 26 digs and five aces from Greder, the Tigers fell to Ballard in four sets Thursday. It was their sixth-straight loss since going 3-2 at the Adel-Desoto-Minburn Invitational Sept. 2.
But through all the trials and tribulations the Tigers are facing they can always count on Greder to keep spirits high.
"She's our team captain for a reason," Stacy Johnson said. "She's our biggest pick-me-up when we're down and our biggest jumper when we get those big points — she's off that floor. She's a fun little player to watch."
Greder's teammates sure appreciate her love for the game.
"It's my favorite thing on the court," Hakmiller said. "With this younger team we're still working on being confident with each other. Volleyball is a very mental game and you've got to be able to really push hard with that energy. If we get quiet it's just game over for us. That's never going to happen with Abby."
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Greder wants nothing more than to see her teammates gain confidence.
"I love these girls so much and to watch them succeed is my favorite thing," Greder said. "I get so excited. It's just so fun to watch them do well."
She knew the Tigers were unlikely to match last year's remarkable run. That doesn't mean this season means any less to her.
"I think the idea of staying energized and having fun is the same exact principle," Greder said. "That's what I keep reminding myself. It's still volleyball and I'm still doing what I love. I play to have fun and be with my friends."
Greder and the Tigers host sixth-ranked Bondurant-Farrar next Tuesday. Gilbert plays in a tournament hosted by No. 3 (3A) Des Moines Christian Oct. 2, travels to Boone three days later and wraps up the season Oct. 12 at home against Carlisle.
"It's only going to get more competitive to say the least," Greder said. "We're going to keep trying our best and if all goes well we can get some more wins before our season closes. But hopefully that won't be for awhile."