Sehome volleyball outside hitter Emily Greer was only 10 years old and just starting out in volleyball when Mariners coach Kristy White met her.
From those first days, though, White knew there was something special in Greer.
“That’s when I knew that she was going to be a phenomenal volleyball player,” White said in a phone interview. “She was tiny. She still is small, but she has the drive, the passion, the want. Her fundamentals are pretty much flawless. Very few have the ‘it’ factor, but Emily had it.”
Years later, Greer would become another in a long line of strong Sehome players. This season, Greer was asked to fill the shoes of the graduated Taylor Lyall, who led the Mariners to a sixth-place finish at state last year at outside hitter.
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But Greer took it in stride. She still had the spark and the drive and the motivation she exhibited when she was 10 and she was comfortable filling big shoes, even if it meant some pressure to get the five seniors on the team back to state for a fourth consecutive year.
“It’s definitely really hard. Taylor was always amazing outside,” Greer said in a phone interview. “It’s hard doing that, but I like it.”
The transition may have been assisted by the fact that this is a process that’s been done before at Sehome.
To continue to excel year after year, White and the Mariners have been able to establish a model where senior leaders are more than just players, but also mentors.
The upperclassmen are clear with what the expectations are and it makes it easier when they depart, White said.
“I think that our seniors, our upperclassmen, do a great job modeling what it should look like,” White said. “So when someone is forced into stepping into their position, they’re excited to take the role. It’s not intimidating.”
For Greer, it might have been a little more of a challenge because of her height. The junior is only 5-foot-5 while many of the top outside hitters in the game tower near 6-feet including her teammate Dani Johnson.
What she lacks in height, she makes up for in drive.
“Emily takes pride in being short. A lot of coaches think she’s not going to be a hitter because she’s too short. They don’t give her the time of day,” White said. “She’s taken the opportunity for Sehome and ran with it. She works her butt off at practice.”
Because of her height, Greer has considered switching to a different position. She played libero for her club team last year.
But Greer enjoys outside hitter too much to give up just because of her height.
“Outside is the position I like most and I’m going to work my hardest be best at that,” Greer said. “A lot of the time hitters are the ones that get all the credit. You make a great pass and nobody notices it. You get a great kill and everybody sees that. Everyone notices it.”
Since Greer is aware of who gets the credit, she makes sure after a big hit to thank her setter, who just so happens to be her sister, Megan.
Having sisters on the team is a dynamic Sehome hasn’t had in awhile, but it’s a big reason the team is 17-0 and headed to its fourth consecutive state tournament.
“They’re able to carry each other when one is struggling,” White said.
With an always-improving Emily Greer and a strong cast of seniors, the Mariners are plenty excited to go far at state, which starts Friday, Nov. 14, at Pierce College in Lakewood.
The Mariners finished sixth last year but with a win against Burlington-Edison for the first time in at least seven years and an undefeated record this season (they did lose in tournament play to Emerald Ridge and Lynden Christian), there seems to be a different quality about this team and White’s taken notice.
“They’re so mentally tough,” White said. “Whether having a good practice or a good game or bad game, they know how to take care of the job.”
And with that note, White reminds her team that they just have to keep doing what they’ve done all year long. It’s about polishing the product now, not reinventing the wheel. Play Sehome volleyball, White said and Greer echoed.
“I really just want to make sure we prove why we’ve been working hard all season,” Greer said. “If we don’t win state, that’s fine. If we don’t win every game, that’s fine. ... I don’t want us to get in our heads and play below expectations just because it’s state.”
Sehome opens play at 8 a.m. Friday against White River.