WATERTOWN, S.D. | Hanna Cummins was all smiles while posing with excited teammates and the South Dakota Class A state championship volleyball trophy Saturday night.
The wild celebration began when Dakota Valley’s student section poured out onto the floor at the Watertown Civic Arena following the four-game triumph over Madison. Then the adults filed out of their second-floor seats and began taking photos following the program’s second state title in the last four years.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, pure happiness, that’s all it right now,” said Cummins, the Dakota Valley setter who dished 53 assists in the squad’s 18th consecutive victory and a whopping 13.6 assists per game in three state tournament wins.
She hopes to again experience that same feeling. There’s a great chance, as Cummins is one of six juniors who will come back in 2017 with goals of becoming the first Dakota Valley team to repeat as a state champion.
Three of Cummins’ classmates played in the title match, including twin sisters Meredith and Elizabeth Lammers, who combined for 33 kills. Defensive specialist Alyssa Johnson, also a junior, had 11 digs and an ace serve for the 31-2 squad.
“I definitely feel like we have a strong future,” said Cummins. “We’re looking forward to coming back next year and hopefully, getting the job done once again.”
“I think definitely next year we will have very high expectations,” said Meredith Lammers.
So what does the coach think? Rick Pruett’s 117-16 mark in four seasons at Dakota Valley includes a 9-3 state tournament mark that began with the 2013 title in his first year.
He likes their chances. After all, the person he calls “The Terminator” (Meredith Lammers), slammed 349 kills as an outside hitter while Elizabeth Lammers (301 kills) has equally long arms that can strike at any time.
“We have some great juniors and we have some great young freshmen and sophomores,” said Pruett. “Nikita (Reinschmidt, a junior) was on the bench along with Jensyn Younger (a freshman). Some of those players can come in and swing with the best of them too. They didn’t see a lot of playing time, but they’re the future of the program. I hope we can come back here and keep winning trophies.”
For that to happen, he hopes for a repeat of the 2016 off-season when as many as 30 players participated in open gym and weight lifting sessions. Several squad members compete for club teams, sometimes against each other.
“During the off-season, we’ll be doing lifting and other stuff as a team so we can get ready for the team aspect before we actually get in the gym and starting playing ball,” said Cummins. “Not many of us stop playing volleyball. Lots of girls go to different places. There’s a club team from out of our school we play for also. All it’s about is getting ball touches.”