Lady Digger VB team builds foundation

Lead-Deadwood’s Rachel Janssen, right, goes on the attack during a varsity volleyball match last season. Janssen and her teammates finished 2-20 on the season. Pioneer file photo

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LEAD — A young Lead-Deadwood volleyball squad set what head coach Kim Hansen described as a very solid foundation for 2021.

The Lady Golddiggers had to replace six seniors and a number of starting positions for the recent 2020 campaign.

Lead-Deadwood finished 2-20, but that mark tells only a small part of the story.

“What stands out the most is the level of growth that this team saw,” Hansen said in reviewing the season. “They just never gave up; they were hungry to learn and kept improving week to week, match to match, day by day.”

Hansen said she could not have wanted to coach a better set of girls. She added they were positive, and she never had to “get after them” with respect to teamwork.

“We had to fill five positions of girls that had really not spent a lot of time on the court,” Hansen said.

The returnee was setter Kailee Bertrand.

Outside hitter Jayna Prince, middle blocker Rachel Janssen, outside hitter Allison Mollman, libero Taya Burleson, defensive specialist Madi Rystrom, right-side hitter Lexie Schroeder, and defensive specialist Lillie Wittmayer were among the players moving into varsity spots this season.

Camaraderie and unity served as strong suits going into the season, according to Hansen. She said quite a bit of shuffling took place in trying to get players to the desired on-court positions.

The Lady Golddiggers dropped a five-game match to Newell as the season began. Scores were 25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 11-25, and 10-15.

Lead-Deadwood was 0-12 going into a Mile High Tournament match against Wall. A 25-19, 25-17 victory gave the Golddiggers their first win of the season.

A 26-24, 25-12, 25-17 setback against Custer ended Lead-Deadwood’s regular season at 1-19.

The Lady Golddiggers were seeded eighth going into the Region 7A-8A tournament. A 25-20, 25-17, 25-22 triumph over No. 9 seed Bennett County moved Lead-Deadwood into the second round.

Lead-Deadwood fell 25-11, 25-11, 25-5 to top-seeded Hill City to end its season.

“I think a lot of it came down to confidence,” Hansen said of the team’s season-long evolution.

She added Lead-Deadwood won a game (in best-of-five matches) from some really strong teams.

On-court highlights for Hansen included Prince’s progress. The junior paced the Golddiggers in attacking kills this season.

“She really only played a couple sets last year as a sophomore on varsity,” Hansen said in describing Prince. “It was like a light bulb switched on, and she was ready to play from the first day of practice.”

Hansen also recalled winning a game in the Sturgis match and almost winning a game against Custer. Lead-Deadwood also took Belle Fourche to the five-game limit.

Schroeder, Wittmayer, Bertrand, Rystrom and Burleson represented the senior class. Hansen said she would miss their positive attitudes, energy, and everything else.

“I am so proud of these five seniors,” Hansen said. “I cannot say enough, and I wish I could continue coaching these girls another four years.”

Hansen said four starters could return for next season: Janssen, Mollman, Prince, and sophomore middle hitter Tilli Katon.

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