NORTH SIOUX CITY | Practices remain hard, if not harder, as Dakota Valley begins the journey to defend its Class A state volleyball championship.

“Her mind is definitely set in the right place,” said Meredith Lammers, talking about the coaching change from a program that has competed in each of the last five state tournaments.

Amy Wiseman is no stranger to the Dakota Valley volleyball program, as she coached on the junior high level. Wiseman, who coached the last three seasons at Siouxland Christian, takes over the powerhouse that Rick Pruett guided to a 117-16 record in the previous four years, including the 2013 Class A state title. A former Morningside College coach, Pruett has returned to the Great Plains Athletics Conference, now at College of Saint Mary in Omaha.

Twin sisters Meredith and Elizabeth Lammers return as starters for Dakota Valley, which opens its season tonight at Sioux Falls Lincoln. Two of their senior classmates, setter Hanna Cummins (960 assists) and defensive specialist/libero Alyssa Johnson (325 digs), also come back from a 31-2 squad that closed the season with 22 straight wins.

“She’s about getting us together as a team and really working us hard to prepare us for our season,” said Meredith Lammers, a 5-11 senior outside hitter/middle blocker who a year ago posted 349 kills for the Panthers, 48 more than Elizabeth, a 5-11 athlete who will play the same positions.

“She challenges us. Her practices run longer than (Pruett’s). She runs a three-middle offense that’s very powerful. I’m excited to be part of it. We will do some damage with the three-middle offense.”

Wiseman coached Siouxland Christian to a 72-35 record. Last year’s 28-10 team that lost in the Class 1A regional finals to Sidney was listed regularly in the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union rankings, twice positioned as high as 10th.

Hannah Connelly, a third-team Class 1A all-state selection now playing at Dordt College, led the Eagles to at least 20 wins in each of Wiseman’s seasons.

“I ran (the three-middle offense) at Siouxland Christian and I love it because it gives hitters options to mix things up,” said Wiseman. “The Lammers (twins) especially like to run this attack. It’s a harder offense to defend because the hitters are moving around.

“(The Lammers twins) has an extreme sense of ball control. They amaze me in what they’re able to do and how they’re able to control. My challenge for them is to push themselves and not sit back. They know the time and place to take risks. Not just them. I want the whole team constantly to try to push to the next level.”

Dakota Valley has another tall front row player in 5-10 senior middle blocker Madisyn Heeren. Cummins, who averaged 13.6 assists per game in state tournament wins over Sioux Valley, West Central and Madison will enter her third year as a starting setter.

Two seniors, 5-8 outside hitter/middle blocker Nikita Reinschmidt and 5-7 outside hitter Hope Carlson, played off the bench a year ago along with 5-7 sophomore right side/outside hitter Jensyn Younger.

The squad also includes 5-7 senior right side Sydney Payne, 5-6 junior outside hitter Natalie Steffen and two sophomores, 5-8 setter Ally Beresford and 5-3 defensive specialist Jordyn Jensen.

“Even with losing four seniors from last year, I still feel we are a very experienced team,” said Wiseman. “The target’s on our back because we were the state champions last year. So that being said, nothing is given. I definitely hope to get back there.”

“I’m very excited for the season,” said Elizabeth Lammers. “It should be a good one. This team is capable of going back to state and accomplishing big things. We need to keep having a positive attitude and keep listening to Coach.”

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