Mike Motz, Sidney Sun-Telegraph
Now that the Fall Sports season has wrapped up, it's time for some grades on the area teams; who over-performed, who under-performed, and how the teams look for the future. This week we will focus on Volleyball, Cross Country and Golf.
Sidney Volleyball, 18-15 record--Grade: B-
Head Coach Julie Smith and her staff work hard to keep the excellent Sidney Lady Raider team at the top of the district, but sometimes even a good year can seem a little disappointing, when a trip to the District Finals, at the least, is expected. The back-to-back defending B8 champs struggled at times in C1, going just 2-and-2 in district for a fourth place finish. After early season losses to Sterling and Ogallala, Sidney hit their stride through mid-September, before losing three consecutive matches in the third week of September, then three more to finish the month. At times both dominant and undisciplined, the Lady Raiders played out of system more than recent Sidney squads. The Lady Raider's loss to a less-talented Chadron team in the Subdistrict Finals was surprising, but the Lady Raiders had suffered from flat performances throughout the year. Although standout hitters Karsyn Leeling and Chloe Ahrens and assist-leader Peyton Schrotberger will be lost to graduation, Sidney has a talented group in Kiera Schrader, Carli Black and Kayla Westby ready to continue the success of Sidney's program.
Leyton Volleyball, 27-6 record--Grade A
For the second year in a row, Head Coach Natasha Haupt and her assistants got the Lady Warriors to a District Final matchup after a strong regular season, only to come up short. Other than their losses to Bayard and Bridgeport, Leyton only dropped two sets during the entire regular season. This was another excellent season for the Lady Warriors, who are ready to make the next step and win a District Final and move on to the State Tournament. It almost happened this year, but a strong Stuart team rallied past the Lady Warriors to earn their spot in the tournament. The Leyton squad will miss the presence of Claire Watchorn at the net and the hitting of Trinity Beutler, but the graduation of these two standouts won't devastate the team. Leyton has a solid program and the team is disciplined and well-coached, so look for the Lady Warriors to compete again for a District Title next season.
Potter-Dix Volleyball, 19-13 record--Grade B+
The Lady Coyotes were a team that had to make serious adjustments this season, as they lost most of their best players to graduation last year. Last year's 23-and-9 record earned them second place in D2-11, and with only two seniors on this year's roster, getting above a .500 record would be an accomplishment. The Lady Coyotes won the matches they were supposed to, and continued to improve in every match during the season. Although lacking in experience, the athleticism and talent level of the Lady Coyotes kept them competitive with more established and experienced teams. Their 19-and-13 record was good enough to earn them 2nd place in D2-11 for the second year in a row. Although they lose Madison Williamson and Jacina Wilbur to graduation, the Lady Coyotes have a good group of younger players with experience to step up next year.
Creek Valley, 4-23 record--Grade D
It's been six long seasons since the Lady Storm had a strong team, with the 2017 Lady Storm finishing with a 22-and-7 record. Since then, the Lady Storm have failed to win double-digit matches in any season. New Head Coach Stephanie Doles has a long way to go to get the Lady Storm back in contention for a Subdistrict title, and will be challenged next year with the loss of seniors Ella Whiting, Alexxa Fletcher and Anna Speirs. A team already light on numbers will have to work hard and play disciplined if they are going to beat other teams besides winless Banner County. But with consistent coaching and enthusiasm, Coach Doles and her assistants should be able to turn the program around.
Peetz Volleyball, 2-17 record--Grade C
The Lady Bulldog Volleyball program has not had a double-digit win season since 2013. Head Coach Becky Leach and her assistants had to work with a very young team, and tried to build an effective squad around a few senior standouts. But the Lady Bulldogs play in a tough 1A North Central League with state-qualifiers like Briggsdale and Weldon Valley, so the high level of competition Peetz faces does not lend itself to rebuilding a program. Although young, the team does have some talent, and was able to be competitive in some matches against lesser teams. This team should improve if they keep working together, although the loss to graduation of seniors Khira Gipfert and Addison Ramey will challenge their younger players to step up and provide leadership. Look for Peetz to continue to improve over the next few seasons as the girls play together and gain more experience.
Sidney Cross Country, --Grade B+
The boy's squad did not perform as well as previous years, but Head Coach Donna Wiedeburg again had a group of winners on the girl's squad, earning 1st Place in District C-5. Wiedeburg's girls sent five runners to the State Meet, and senior Talissa Tanquary ended her outstanding high school cross country career with a third-place finish. Up-and-coming freshman star Kylee Kampfe placed 20th overall in her first try at the state meet, and freshman Emily Bashtovoi placed 65th in her first trip. Senior Daisy Garner placed 85th , sophomore Kyah Hicks placed 93rd and freshman Laurel Dadgostar placed 94th in a field of 120 runners. The boys did not qualify any runners for the state meet this season. Junior Noah Canas led the team with a 31st place finish at the District Meet, and Wiedeburg has a group of underclass talent that will look to take the next step in 2024 and get some of the boys qualified for state next season.
Creek Valley Cross Country, --Grade B.
A relatively small-squad performed well this season, especially on the girl's side. Senior Samantha Marin grabbed an eighth-place finish at the D-6 District meet in Grant, then placed 40th out of 120 runners at the State Meet in Kearney. Sophomore Rebecca Lutz also had a fine season, with a 41st place finish at the D-6 District Meet. Marin set the new school record in Cross Country, bettering her own record. The boy's squad did not fare as well, with junior Jaxon Wickham leading the boys with a 22nd place finish at the D-6 Meet. Creek Valley loses Marin and Michael Lutz to graduation, and their small team will rely on Wickham, Rebecca Lutz and Josiah Clark next year to qualify for the State Meet.
Sidney Girls Golf,-Grade B
Head Coach Tyler Shaw's first outing with the Lady Raider Golf team was successful, with four first-time golfers and only two returning experienced players. Sidney's team placed fifth in B-4, but junior Claire Jordan placed fifth individually in the District Tournament, sending her to the State Tournament. Jordan shot a 184 over the two rounds to finish in 19th place overall in Class B. She will return next year along with junior Jordan DeNovellis and a group with a bit more experience that should be more competitive.
Creek Valley Girls Golf, Grade C
Kennedy Bocock and Elizabeth Witcher competed well this season, and Bocock had a number of outstanding performances on the links. After placing fourth in the C-5 District Tournament, Bocock qualified for the State Tournament, but had to withdraw from the competition. With Bocock graduating, it will be hard to tell what the future will bring to the program.