RAPID CITY – A seasoned, experienced Dakota Valley volleyball team takes aim at another state championship.
The defending state champs, with eight seniors on its 15-member varsity roster, are making the school’s sixth straight state tournament appearance and the seventh overall.
The second-ranked Panthers open Class A state tourney play with an 8:45 p.m. match against Parker Thursday at the Rushmore Civic Center in Rapid City.
“This is kind of what we have been working toward all season,” said first-year coach Amy Wiseman. “We have made the first step we have made it to this tournament and now we just have to come out and play our best.”
Dakota Valley has had another strong season, led by the front row play of twin sisters Meredith and Elizabeth Lammers, and has dropped just three matches during a 26-3 season.
The Panthers own a 69-10 mark in sets played and their losses have come to top-ranked Sioux Falls Christian twice and Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Iowa’s Class 4A state runner-up.
“Just having those tougher games throughout the season, those higher competition games, is what you need to do in order to be prepared for the state tournament,” Wiseman said. “The more you prepare yourself through the season, the better off your going to be in those tough games in the end when they count.”
Meredith has 310 kills and Elizabeth 297 but the 5-11 and 5-10 outside hitters, respectively, are far from the only weapons at the disposal of sophomore setter Ally Beresford (852 assists).
Nikita Reinschmidt, a 5-8 senior, has 134 kills, Jensyn Younger, a 5-7 sophomore, has 101 while Madisyn Heeren, a 5-10 senior, chips in 89.
“I think that has been big for us this year, try to develop and have five hitters,” Wiseman said. “We run a 5-1 so to have five hitters that can put the ball away, that just helps to keep the other side of the ball defensively honest.
“The more we keep our middles and right side in the game and they are putting the ball away the easier it makes it for everyone.”
The Lammers have each recorded over 1,000 career kills and digs as all-rotation players while the Panthers title defense will also hinge on the consistent ability to pass the ball from the back row to set up the offensive attack.
Alyssa Johnson, a 5-5 senior libero, has 327 digs and is a third Panther with over 1,000 in her career.
Dakota Valley, the runner-up in both the regular season and tournament in the Dakota XII behind Sioux Falls Christian, would like nothing more than a third shot against its rivals this season.
“It says a lot for our conference and the caliber of the teams in our conference that pretty consistently they are multiple teams finishing in the top (half at state),” said Wiseman. “It just says a lot for the conference, says a lot for the way that our record is.”
For eight Dakota Valley seniors it’s the final opportunity to put on the volleyball uniform and to perform on the state’s biggest stage.
“They’re just excited, they really throughout the season have been, they’re all leaders in their own way, they have really stepped up,” said Wiseman. “They are really pushing to finish the season the way that they want too.”