NORTH SIOUX CITY | Right from the start, Dakota Valley’s game plan was to take Beresford out of system.
Coach Amy Wiseman’s second-ranked Panthers began to dismantle Beresford with their serving. Ally Beresford, the squad’s season leader with 52 ace serves, went on a six-point serving run to start Thursday night’s Region 4A semifinal volleyball match while Nikita Reinschmidt stretched a narrow 10-8 Game 2 lead serving 12 consecutive points.
Reinschmidt had three of her team-high five ace serves in that dominating stretch. Overall, the Panthers finished with nine ace serves and advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 25-10, 25-10, 25-18 triumph.
The defending South Dakota Class A champion riddled Beresford with a combination of short and aggressive serves.
“Honestly, we’ve been working on serves a lot lately because we don’t want to miss any and give up free points,” said Reinschmidt. “It was really important for me just to get them in and get them over. A lot of them hit the net, which was a big factor because it barely just flipped over which made the other team second-guess how they were going to react and a lot of them didn’t know how to react because they kind of kept shanking them.”
Dakota Valley has turned in 231 ace serves during a 25-3 campaign that will continue Tuesday at a site yet to be determined. Statewide, the 16 remaining teams will be re-seeded from first to 16th in order to get the best eight teams to the state tournament.
Dakota Valley has traditionally been a strong-serving volleyball program. Four Panthers have recorded 30 or more ace serves this season, a list that includes Beresford and Meredith Lammers (34), who each turned in two aces.
“We try to push keeping the serve low to the net and being aggressive in the service game,” said Wiseman, who a year ago, coached Siouxland Christian to a 28-10 record and a trip to the Iowa Class 1A regional finals. “The more we can keep them out of system in serve receive, the easier ball that we can get back and then we can be more aggressive.
“(Serving) has been a focus throughout the year. We’ve been honing in on that as well as blocking the whole week. It has been a week since we played. It’s all about keeping the serve in, being aggressive. The more we become aggressive, the more we hit our zones and the better off we will be.”
Lammers’ two aces were part of a performance where she also contributed team-highs of 19 kills and three blocks. She went into the match second on the team at 92.8 percent from the service stripe, but claims that she’s missing more serves than the past in her senior year.
“When I get to the service line, I really try to focus on getting the ball over the net,” she said. “Tonight, I think I had only one missed serve and two aces, so I was proud of myself. In practice, we do work a lot on serving. Maybe I need to work on more aggressive serving so when I get to a game situation, I can serve aggressively and more efficiently.”
Elizabeth Lammers provided 10 kills and 10 digs for the Panthers, who are one win away from a sixth straight state tournament berth. Beresford dished 41 assists in the squad’s 24th sweep of the season.
Defensively, Reinschmidt and Madisyn Heeren each recorded two blocks. Following the match, it was announced that libero Alyssa Johnson (11 digs) surpassed 1,000 career digs.
Johnson enters the Sweet 16 round with 1,005 digs.
“You can’t have those fun, huge kills if you can’t pass the ball,” said Wiseman. “That defensive side is huge. (Johnson) is everywhere. She has such a great attitude. She always has a smile on the court. She’s always bringing the team back together. When things are going rough, we can count on Alyssa to bring everyone back in and get everyone focused again.”