Last season the Lead-Deadwood volleyball team finished 11-18. What a difference a year can make.
The Golddiggers swept Douglas Tuesday 25-19, 25-20 and 25-18 to earn its 20th win of the season, already nearly double the win total from last season.
"It’s been really great. Having a winning season you have to continue to learn because when you’re not winning, you know what you need to work on, so when you’re winning, there’s always something new you want to learn," Lead-Deadwood coach Kim Hansen said. "These girls are like sponges, they want to learn as much as they can and they’re trying new things. They tried new things tonight, so we’re getting there. I wouldn’t say we’re postseason ready but we’re getting close."
The postseason is on the horizon for Lead-Deadwood, as its record moves to 20-8. It sits only behind Belle Fourche in Region 8A.
Serving and passing were two things the Golddiggers have tried to improve throughout the season, and Hansen said she thought her team was able to do that against Douglas.
"Without those two key points in your game you're going to struggle," she said. "We were able to serve at over 90 percent, which was definitely our goal and our passing was a lot better tonight too, so those were two parts that we were able to clean up."
Douglas seems to be heading in the opposite direction. At 2-20 the Patriots have struggled this season. Coach Jeff Nugent said he's seen improvement, but Douglas is still looking for answers when it comes to the fundamentals of the game.
"Our skills are pretty low," he said. "We have a couple of girls out there who hadn’t played volleyball before this fall, so they can do certain things, but the second or third play in a rally they really struggle with what to do next."
Lead-Deadwood was in control throughout the match, jumping out to a 10-5 lead in the first set and cruising from there. Douglas made a late run after the Golddiggers made it 20-13, but it wasn't enough to get the set win.
The second set started out similarly to the first. Lead-Deadwood jumped out to a 12-5 lead, which became 20-13 and eventually resulted in a set win.
Douglas challenged during the first 10 points of the third set but the Golddiggers pulled away fairly early on, leading 12-7 before 20-12 and eventually taking the set and the match.
"I know all the players are frustrated," Nugent said. "It’s going to take more than just showing up in the fall and thinking you’re going to play."
Anna Campbell and Carolyn Groeger led the way for Lead-Deadwood with 10 kills each, Gracie Kosters served at 92.3 percent and had four aces. She also led the team in digs with 10, McKayla Norton had 19 assists.
As a team, the Golddiggers served at 93.2 percent with eight aces.
For the Patriots, Alyssa Stewart had 15 digs while Jeslyn Jindra and Jordyn Tolliver added 13 apiece. Victoria Somerset had three blocks, while Jindra had seven kills and Hanna Hill had five.
The success this season for Lead-Deadwood has come in the adaptability of the players, according to Hansen. Of the 13 varsity players, five are seniors, three are juniors and five are sophomores.
"We’re kind of all over the board (with experience levels), and that says a lot to these girls, that they’re able to play with different players and different rotations. We have not had a set rotation all year, so that’s probably bad coaching," she said, laughing. "I’m just trying to find the magic rotation. They’re always willing to step in no matter what role I have them in."
With winning also comes more fun, and Hansen said she encourages the girls to be enthusiastic about the sport whether they are on the bench or on the court.
"Every single day of my life that we are playing volleyball we are not only excited about our big plays, but we are okay with mistakes," she said. 'Being able to celebrate after big plays is fun and great but that also lets the other team know that ‘hey, we’re here to play.’
"Volleyball is such a mental game, if you’re able to get over a mental hurdle like the other team scoring three big points in a row, you’ve got to do that by being crazy on the court."
Douglas takes on Belle Fourche Monday on the road before ending the regular season on Halloween against Sturgis. Lead-Deadwood will end its regular season against Spearfish on the road, Monday.