Expectations soar for Platte-Geddes volleyball ahead of state tournament

The Black Panthers (32-4) enter the Class B state tournament as the No. 1 seed.

Platte-Geddes' Karly VanDerWerff (7) hits an attack during a SoDak 16 match against Faith on Nov. 9, 2021, at the Huron Arena, in Huron. (Landon Dierks / Republic)

PLATTE — Platte-Geddes had not qualified for the state volleyball tournament since 2016, nor had it made an appearance in the SoDak 16 state qualifying round since its introduction to Class B in 2017.

Under different circumstances, a young team unfamiliar with the challenges that come with a deep postseason run would count themselves as fortunate to be among the final eight teams playing, but that’s not the case with the Black Panthers. They didn’t just qualify, they cruised through long stretches of their season and have earned the expectations that come with possessing the No. 1 seed.

“It’s crazy and we’re all really excited and a new experience for all of us,” said middle hitter Karly VanDerWerff. “I think that adds to the pressure a little bit since we’re all new to it but have the top seed. It’s awesome, though, and a lot of fun.”

Platte-Geddes (32-4) jumped out to a hot start, winning 14 of their first 15 matches, and of its four losses, three came to Class A competition, with the remaining loss coming against Class B No. 3 seed Arlington. But the Black Panthers enter the Class B state tournament on an even greater tear, having won 16 straight since Sept. 28 to close the regular season and roll through the region tournament and state qualifying round.

In Region 6B tournament competition, Platte-Geddes hardly flinched. The Black Panthers dispatched Wessington Springs in the quarterfinals and Avon in the semifinals, needing just three sets to do so in each match.


In the SoDak 16, the top-seeded Black Panthers punched their ticket to Rapid City in emphatic fashion, again needing just three sets to defeat No. 16 Faith.

But now the competition, and pressure, ratchet up a couple notches, and coach Melissa Johnson said that acknowledging that fact will be a crucial part of her squad’s mental preparation.

Platte-Geddes' Regan Hoffman (2) hits an attack during a SoDak 16 match against Faith on Nov. 9, 2021, at the Huron Arena, in Huron. (Landon Dierks / Republic)

“We just have to be prepared that the caliber of the teams is going to be very high, one through eight,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to bring our 'A' game right away and leave everything out on the court. … Being No. 1, there’s a lot of pressure, but the girls didn’t let the pressure get to them [in the SoDak 16], so hopefully that won’t happen at state and they can just have fun, play hard and enjoy themselves.”

Added VanDerWerff: “I think if we just keep doing what we have been doing, we’ll be fine.”

VanDerWerff leads the Black Panthers in kills (433), digs (468) and total blocks (59) and is third on the team with 66 ace serves. Fellow sophomore Cadence Van Zee (345 kills) and junior Regan Hoffman (249 kills) complete a formidable attacking trio. Junior Avery DeVries has put up 1,002 assists this season to aid the attack, and all four recorded at least 50 ace serves, paced by 79 from Van Zee. Behind VanDerWerff, five Black Panthers — Hoffman (440), Van Zee (379), sophomore Hadley Hanson (366), DeVries (248) and sophomore Baleigh Nachtigal (219) — each eclipsed the 200-dig threshold.

Platte-Geddes will open the Class B state tournament against a familiar foe, as Burke (29-8) — a fellow state qualifier from Region 6B — awaits in the quarterfinals. During the regular season, the Black Panthers defeated the Cougars in both meetings.


The pair open the tournament at 1 p.m. Central time at the Summit Arena in Rapid City.

Platte-Geddes volleyball players celebrate on the court following a straight-set win over Faith in the SoDak 16 on Nov. 9, 2021, at the Huron Arena, in Huron. (Landon Dierks / Republic)

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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