EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to include coach's comments from Dakota Valley.
Four area programs, three in Class A and one in Class B, are headed to Rapid City this week to compete in the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament. The event will be the first statewide sporting event held in Summit Arena at The Monument, the new facility in Rapid City.
Platte-Geddes (32-4) is the top seed in Class B, playing Burke (29-8) in the 1 p.m. Central contest. Fourth-seeded Chester (26-5) will take on Colman-Egan (25-7) in the late afternoon match. The evening session will begin at 7 p.m. with second-seeded Warner (30-5) against Aberdeen Christian (23-3), followed by third-seeded Arlington (30-5) against Faulkton Area.
In Class A, Dakota Valley (26-8) is seeded third, Wagner (27-6) is seeded fourth and Parkston (21-14) is seeded eighth. Parkston opens the tournament with a 1 p.m. matchup against four-time defending champion and top-seeded Sioux Falls Christian (32-4), followed by Wagner against Hill City (26-7). Dakota Valley (26-8) plays Hamlin (26-6) in the final match of the day, preceded by second-seeded Garretson (27-1) against Elkton-Lake Benton (22-11).
Here is a look at the four area tournament teams:
Black Panthers head coach Melissa Johnson was not surprised that her squad is headed to state. Going in as the top seed, that’s another matter.
“It was something I definitely felt we could do,” she said, referring to qualifying for state for the first time since 2016. “I did not expect the number one seed. It was a good surprise.”
Platte-Geddes’ attack has been powered by a trio of athletes that all started their varsity careers as eighth graders: junior Regan Hoffman and sophomores Karly VanDerWerff and Cadence Van Zee.
VanDerWerff, a 5-10 middle, has pounded out 433 kills on the season while hitting at a .361 clip. She also has a team-best 59 blocks and 468 digs.
Van Zee, a 5-10 outside hitter, has 345 kills, 379 digs and 15 blocks.
“Karly and Cadence — our two ‘vans’ — have quite a bit of experience,” Johnson said.
In her four years as a varsity starter, the 5-5 Hoffman has alternated between libero and outside hitter.
“She’s really taken on that outside role,” Johnson said. “She’s done such a great job coming into that role.”
Running the Black Panther offense has been Avery DeVries. The 5-5 junior amassed 1,002 assists on the season, giving her over 2,000 for her career. She also has 33 blocks and 248 digs.
“She hit 1,000 (assists) late last year, and we ended up celebrating it at the beginning of the season,” Johnson said. “All of a sudden we look at the stats and see she was going to get over 2,000 for her career this season.”
The Black Panthers have relied on a strong defense to feed that powerful offense. Sophomore libero Hadley Hanson has 366 digs, with fellow sophomore Baleigh Nachtigal recording 219 digs. Addyson Boltjes, the lone senior in the rotation, has 31 blocks.
“We’re kinda tall but not that tall. We don’t have any 6-footers out there,” Johnson said. “Our serve-receive is so important to keeping the ball going for us, and we do really well at it.
“We’re really good at serving, too.”
The Black Panthers boast an aggressive and effective service game, averaging 10 ace serves per match while serving at a .876 clip. Van Zee (79 aces), DeVries (69) and VanDerWerff (66 aces) lead the way, with Hoffman (53 aces), Nachtigal (41 aces) and Hanson (41 aces) also effective.
“It’s not just a few servers, it’s quite a few for us,” Johnson said.
Platte-Geddes does not have to go far for its scout on its first-round opponent, regional rival Burke. The teams met twice during the regular season, with the Black Panthers earning a 3-2 victory on Sept. 21 and a 2-0 victory on Oct. 23.
“Burke has always been a defensively aggressive team,” Johnson said. “It’s something we’ve strived for with our team. They’re going to be a tough competitive team.”
Burke is led by junior outside Adisyn Indahl (547 kills, 564 digs, 61 ace serves) and freshman outside Kailee Frank (269 kills, 376 digs, 89 ace serves). Freshman middle Paige Bull has 109 blocks. Freshman Ava Sargent (394 assists, 244 digs, 51 ace serves) and junior Elly Witt (374 assists, 199 digs, 36 ace serves) share setting duties in the team’s 6-2 offense.
For the Black Panthers to live up to their high seed, they’re going to have to beat Burke at its own game, Johnson said.
“If we outhustle teams, we’re going to be tough to beat,” she said. “We have other components going for us, but we need to fight for that ball.”
The Dakota Valley Panthers have finished second in each of their last three trips to state. Though the Panthers are the third seed, their goal is the same: play for a state title.
The Panthers have competed in eight of the last nine state tournaments, with top-three finishes in seven of those tourney trips. Dakota Valley won titles in 2013 and 2016.
Dakota Valley boasts a high-powered offensive attack, led by junior middle Jorja Van Den Hul (318 kills, 62 blocks, 64 ace serves) and sophomore outside hitter Sophie Tuttle (241 kills, 34 blocks, 289 digs, 24 ace serves). Senior outside hitter Madeline Stout (145 kills, 29 blocks), senior middle hitter Tori Schulz (133 kills, 42 blocks) and senior outside hitter Sammi Archer (131 kills, 330 digs, 34 ace serves) also boast over 100 kills on the season.
“Jorja is primarily a middle, but she gets a lot of swings from a lot of different places,” said Panthers head coach Mary Miller. “Sophie Tuttle is having a nice breakout season. Sammi Archer is undersized, but she gets her shots and has good ball control.”
Junior Logan Miller has handled the setting duties, recording 846 on the season. She also has 77 kills, 20 blocks and 164 digs.
“We have a setter that jump-sets everything. That opens up hitters for more one-on-one opportunities,” Coach Miller said. “We try to move around as much as we can so the blockers can’t catch up.”
Twins Kate and Reagan Van Rooyan, both juniors, help patrol the back row for the Panthers. Kate has 410 digs and 29 ace serves on the season, while Reagan has 193 digs and 20 ace serves.
“They are identical twins, and some days they’re very identical twins,” Coach Miller said. “They play a lot alike. They’re both scrappy and relentless in the back row.”
Facing Dakota Valley will be a Hamlin squad led by juniors middle Ally Abraham (433 kills, 64 blocks, 47 ace serves), Kami Wadsworth (198 kills, 58 blocks, 285 digs, 24 ace serves) and Gracelyn Leiseth (194 kills, 77 blocks). Sophomore Emily Everson has 44 blocks to rank among the team leaders in net defense.
“Hamlin had a great basketball team. They were in the finals,” Coach Miller said, referring to the Chargers’ athleticism. “Abraham is their go-to. She’s not explosive, but she’s steady.”
Senior Grace Everson (466 assists, 217 digs, 63 ace serves) and Wadsworth (371 assists) share setting duties. Senior Alyssa West (310 digs, 20 ace serves), junior Ava Prouty (245 digs, 23 ace serves), senior Lily Smith (195 digs) and eighth grader Addison Neuendorf (222 digs, 40 ace serves) lead the back row defense.
For the Panthers to make another run to the championship match, they need to take care of fundamentals, Coach Miller said.
“It comes down to serving and passing,” she said. “If we can stay in system and get the ball to Logan, our hitters will get a lot of nice swings. If we have our fundamentals going, we will be there Saturday night.”
A young squad with some key additions has Wagner in the state tournament for the first time since 2013.
Head coach Stacey Kneble “absolutely” thought the squad could make state before the season began.
“We had a great sophomore class coming back,” she said. “And the add-ons were awesome.”
The “add-ons” were juniors Shalayne Nagel and Emma Yost, a pair of 5-11 outside hitters who have both made an impact in their first year in the program. Yost has 316 kills, 32 blocks, 436 digs and 44 ace serves on the season. Nagel has posted 190 kills, 294 digs, 67 blocks and 27 ace serves.
“Emma probably wouldn’t have called herself a ‘volleyball player’ coming in. But she’s been a big offensive threat and has earned the opportunity to play all the way around,” Knebel said. “Nagel had a lot to learn, but she’s stepped in and been an energizer for us.”
Junior 5-10 outside hitter Averi Bruguier (183 kills, 291 digs, 18 blocks, 21 ace serves) and sophomores 6-0 middle Kya Kjeldgaard (212 kills, 80 blocks, 100 digs, 38 ace serves), and 6-0 middle Shona Kocer (147 kills, 77 blocks) have also helped key the offensive attack.
“Averi has worked her tail off. She’s put in a lot of time to get better,” Knebel said. “Kya is a great blocker. Shona has really stepped into her role.”
Managing that offense is another sophomore, 5-9 setter Macy Koupal. Koupal has 908 assists, as well as 247 digs, 36 blocks and a team-high 57 ace serves.
“Macy has developed into quite the setter,” Knebel said. “She loves getting the ball to our hitters.”
Sophomore libero Madi Knebel has helped control the back row, posting 300 digs to go with her 53 ace serves.
To Coach Knebel, fifth seeded Hill City seems to be a favorable matchup for Wagner.
“We feel like we match up well,” she said. “We should pull out a win as long as we play our game.”
While the Red Raiders are focused on winning, Coach Knebel also wants the team to enjoy the moment.
“This is a group like no other, and we’ve got all our starters back next year,” she said. “A lot of them have never been to state before. I want them to take in the whole atmosphere.”
A balanced attack and a little determination have the Parkston Trojans in the state tournament for the first time since 2007.
“I knew we could get there,” said Parkston head coach Abbie Hobbick. “It was a matter of were we willing to work hard and play together as a team.”
The “team” aspect has especially shown on offense, where Parkston has five hitters with over 100 kills — and a sixth with 98. Senior middle Brielle Bruening (250 kills, 242 digs, 62 blocks, 29 ace serves) and 5-4 sophomore outside Mya Nuebel (249 kills, 461 digs, 70 ace serves) lead the way, followed closely by senior middle Allison Ziebart (237 kills, 384 digs, 28 blocks, 32 ace serves). Junior right-side Abby Hohn (136 kills, 42 blocks) and 5-5 sophomore middle Gracie Oakley (150 kills) have also been effective on offense.
“That’s been one of our weapons this year,” Hobbick said of the team’s offensive balance. “We can put it down from all positions.”
Spreading the ball around has been junior setter Faith Oakley (559 assists, 276 digs, 35 ace serves), who has also called her own number for 98 kills.
“Faith has been good at figuring out who to set the ball to, whether that’s the hot hitter or someone who can get through the other team’s block,” Hobbick said.
Senior Baylee Schoenfelder (235 digs, 30 ace serves) and junior Kiauna Hargens (241 digs, 17 ace serves) have also played key roles in the floor defense.
“We have figured out to go for the ball, and we’ve done a good job of that,” Hobbick said.
The Trojans face a challenging opening test in four-time defending champion Sioux Falls Christian.
Like the Trojans, Sioux Falls Christian boasts five hitters with 100 or more kills, led by Sydney Tims (279 kills, 86 blocks, 51 ace serves) and Katie Van Egdom (265 kills, 232 digs, 31 blocks, 31 ace serves). Peyton Poppema (152 kills, 169 digs, 44 ace serves), Kylah vanDonkersgoed (139 kills, 265 digs, 47 blocks, 62 ace serves) and Ellie Lems (125 kills, 145 digs, 58 blocks, 45 ace serves) have also been offensive weapons for the Chargers.
“They’re strong up front, with good blockers across the net,” Hobbick said of the Chargers. “The challenge will be finding a way through or around them.”
Addisen Barber (883 assists, 156 digs, 22 ace serves) has directed the Chargers’ attack. Lavin Maddox (196 digs) and Sidney Oostra (104 digs) have helped patrol the back row.
The Trojans will need to be on top of their game from the start, Hobbick said.
“We have to play some really good team defense. Our blockers need to be strong,” she said. “If we can take some speed off their ball so our defense can dig it for us, it will help.
“We need to continue to play well together, play for each other and keep working hard.”
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