WOOD RIVER JCT. — For Chariho High’s Nick Graichen, the path to second-team All-State honors as a volleyball player has not been a direct one.
As a freshman, he was hurt, and he played junior varsity as a sophomore. A preseason injury cost him most of his junior year.
“It’s been a long journey for four years, but he came in in midseason form to start the season,” Chariho coach Doug Bliven said. “He was one of the few players I’ve had that played all six rotations.
“He was our primary offensive weapon most of the year and one of our better defenders. He was so valuable we kept him in the entire game.”
Gaichen played right-side hitter.
“He’s very difficult to defend, and it helps he’s a lefty,” Bliven said.
In addition to earning second-team All-State recognition, Graichen was a second-team All-Division I selection.
After earning honorable-mention All-State recognition as a sophomore last season, Shea Jackson was third-team All-State this season as the team’s libero. He was also third-team All-Division I.
“He was our primary passer. He averaged 1.5 passing, which means he got the ball to our setter, if not every time, almost every time,” Bliven said. “We didn’t have to worry about our passing consistency.”
Jackson was also an effective defender.
“He has the ability to pick up tough shots,” Bliven said. “He was able to get himself in position where he anticipated where the ball would be be, and he did that flawlessly.”
Senior Connor Klein was honorable-mention All-State and third-team All-Division I as the team’s setter.
“It’s the first time in seven or eight years we’ve had a setter recognized as all-division or All-State,” Bliven said. “He was able to call plays that put our hitters against soft blockers or in favorable matchups. Executing that is not as easy as it sounds.
“He was also one of the best leaders I’ve ever had. He was able to keep the other players energized.”
Senior Shawn Gebelein received Division I honorable-mention recognition.
As a freshman, Gebelein sacrificed individual goals when he was pressed into starting for a team that won just one Division I game, Bliven said.
This season he was one of the team’s primary hitters, with Graichen.
Chariho also received the Division I sportsmanship award.
“This is the nicest group of kids I’ve worked with in all my years of coaching,” Bliven said. “When this group started, we really struggled to compete in Division I. But they’ve worked hard, and the parents have been so supportive. It was good to see that recognized by the league.”
The team had established a goal of raising $1,000 for the Maddie Potts Foundation. By the end of the season, the total was nearly $5,000.