For most teams, one of the core goals going into every season is to improve on what was accomplished the year prior.
From a team standpoint, that will be a tough goal to accomplish after the team went 31-0 last season and won the Class 1 state championship.
“It is a special group,” Platte Valley coach Tyler Pedersen said.
This group of Platte Valley players can’t do any better than last season’s group accomplished, but they are focused on growing as a team and trying to match last season’s accomplishments.
“I feel like we are just ready to come back and do the same thing that we did last year,” Platte Valley senior Jaclyn Pappert said.
One building block which helps to have back in the fold is sophomore Maggie Collins.
As a freshman with four upperclassmen starting around her, Collins led the team in scoring and rebounding while being an absolute terror for opposing teams defensively as both a rim protector and the head of the ferocious Platte Valley press.
What set Collins apart as a freshman was the simple fact that she didn’t play like one or look like one. The strongest player on the court any time she took it, Collins shot 65 percent from the field and averaged 11.8 points with 6.3 rebounds.
“It is great to be back off of what we accomplished last year,” Collins said. “We have the same ability to do it this year I think. We are coming in with a strong mindset that if we work as hard as we did last time, we can do it again.”
Collins certainly won’t be asked to lead the team alone this year with two senior returning starters with point guard Stephanie Turpin and forward Pappert.
Pappert and Collins’ games complement each other well. Pappert is a 2-time All-State selection and is a deadly 3-point shooter.
“What you are talking about is two All-State players, so whenever you can return two All-State players, that is definitely a good thing,” Pedersen said. “They score in different ways.”
Pappert shot 39 percent last season from beyond the arc and averaged eight points a game with four rebounds.
Last season, Turpin set a new standard for pass first point guard play. She finished the year with just 90 shot attempts in 26 games started leading into the final four. She had 64 assists in that span.
“She has kind been under-celebrated the last couple years,” Pedersen said. “And I don’t mean that as a dis to any of the other players who received some of the honors, but Stephanie is so valuable.”
Turpin’s lack of shots was due to her knowing her role rather than a lack of ability according to her teammates and they look forward to seeing their floor general grow as an offensive threat this season.
“Last year, she was a passer, that was her role last year,” Collins said. “I think that this year, she will really show up and create some big points for us.”
On the wing, Platte Valley replaces a pair of dynamic weapons in Malia Collins and Paige West, but the benefit of all the team’s blowout wins last year is that the bench got a lot of time last year and their replacements looked dynamic as well.
“Last year, we had countless amounts of people coming off the bench who could show up for those big moments,” Maggie Collins said.
One player who may be in for a big season is sophomore Brylie Angle. Angle led the team in 3-point makes last season and shot 35 percent from deep.
Angle finished last season as the team’s fifth-leading scorer at 6.8 points per game and should see that average increase this season.
One of the things that made Platte Valley special last season was the pressure they could apply to other guards. Turpin, West and Malia Collins certainly did their share of that, but so did Sarah Langford.
A defensive specialist as a sophomore, Langford was stellar at coming into a game and creating havoc defensively. Pedersen says that the key this season is to provide that same intensity while playing more minutes.
“Between her and a couple other players, they are probably going to draw the other team’s best perimeter player,” Pedersen said. “So her role on the defensive side is going to change a little bit. She definitely was assigned to those players last year, but it was in spurts. Now the chances are that it is going to be her man at the start of the game. I anticipate her stepping up and being ready for that role, but that is part of the fun of the new season — teammates and players learning those new roles.”
The team is still deep at the guard and forward spots with seniors Claire Galbraith and Samantha Terry being joined by Kali Redden, Kayley Hauber and Christina Turpin as players with experience from last year.
“They have been in the game for four years so they have more experience,” Pappert said of Terry and Galbraith. “Claire is always the one that if you have a question, she’ll be there to answer it. And Samantha is always good at defense.”
Frontcourt depth is the other area that Platte Valley must replace this year as when Maggie Collins and Pappert sat last year, Sydnee Deen and Madelynn Mattson punished opposing frontcourts with their size and strength.
The answer to that depth questing is a 6-foot-1 one with junior Aubrey Mattson having a bigger role this season. Mattson was a force as a sophomore rebounding the ball and finished with more rebounds than shot attempts as she played her role.
“Aubrey Mattson is a player who has been super physical in practice so far,” Pedersen said. “She has just been super strong and she is playing kind of in a different gear from what I’ve seen in past years. So if she keeps that up, I really anticipate big things from her.”
That role will expand this season.
Platte Valley opened the season by hosting Mid-Buchanan on Tuesday and they will be at the Albany Tournament next week.
“We are going to have a target on our back and if you handle it the right way, it can only make you better,” Pedersen said. “If we are getting the other team’s best shot, but we are focused and doing the things that we want to do, I think that can only make us better throughout the season.”
When Maggie Collins was asked what the team goals are for this year, the answer was simple.