EDITOR'S NOTE: The Swnews4u.com Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.
Bailey Durni, Sr., Platteville volleyball team manager
PLATTEVILLE — Senior Bailey Durni is the Platteville volleyball team’s biggest fan, bar none.
Durni, the team’s manager the past four years, hasn’t let her special needs slow her down in the least. She is at every practice, every game, on every bus ride and part of each team function. She is a vocal cheerleader on the bench and the first to offer teammates encouragement in good times and bad.
Her classmates have always returned that love and support. Prior to last Thursday’s Senior Night/Parents’ Night match with visiting Richland Center, Durni’s teammates approached first-year coach Denise Berntgen with the idea to put Bailey in the game. It was their turn to cheer her on.
“Bailey is a huge part of this group and a natural leader as a senior,” said Berntgen. “The senior players came to me before the game and said, ‘Coach, we want Bailey to suit up and take a serve tonight.’ I was so excited and thrilled about the idea. I talked with the referees and the Richland Center coach and they were all so accommodating.
Durni suited up as number 15 and took part in the Senior Night celebration.
After a side out early in the first set, it was Durni’s time to shine. She subbed in for fellow senior Alayna Digman as it was her turn to serve.
Durni smashed her serve over the net. Richland Center returned it, and Platteville was able to set up a play that was finished off by a kill from sophomore Ellie Temperly.
“The excitement on her face, the standing ovation she got from the crowd and her fellow teammates enthusiasm will forever be one of my favorite memories as a coach,” said Berntgen. “She works hard for us and brings so much joy to our program, we will definitely miss her next year.”
Platteville did not officially get a point on Durni’s serve, but everyone in the limited attendance was a winner by witnessing the heart-warming event.
Digman subbed back in for Durni and the game continued on.
“Bailey was so excited to play,” added Berntgen. “She had a smile from the time we told her she was going to get to play until she left the school that night.
Platteville played inspired volleyball after Durni’s cameo and went to swept the visiting Hornets with ease 25–17, 25–14, 25–10 to improve to 2–0 on the season, which began Tuesday with Southwest Wisconsin Conference sweep at Lancaster.
Digman, Durni and fellow seniors Maddie Cooley, Madison Devlin, Paige Wagner, Presley Kerkenbush, Meadow Steckling were honored prior to the game in front of the limited audience.
Each player (for both teams) was allowed only two tickets to limit attendance due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think that this group handles everything that has been happening in our world extremely well,” said Berntgen. “They just want to have as normal of a volleyball season as possible and make memories which so far we are doing.”
Durni’s mother Mary Jo said she feels strongly that this senior group of girls are Bailey’s guardian angels on earth.”
Digman topped the Hillmen (2–0, 2–0 SWC) with nine kills and four blocks in Thursday’s win over Richland Center (0–1, 0–1). Cooley added eight kills and Devlin added four kills and six digs, while junior setter Emily Fields passed our 15 assists, made six digs and served up two aces.
Wagner led the team with eight digs, while junior Catherine Tashner finished with eight aces and seven digs.
“It was Parents Night and Senior Night, which is always fun and exciting, but it was important for the girls to play together and focus on the game which they did and that helped us come out on top.
“These girls have had about two weeks of practice and work hard every night. They do not complain about wearing masks, different guidelines for fans and are just grateful to be back on the court. They are playing well, we know that there are areas that need improvement and we will continue to work on them in practice.”
BAILEY BUTLER, Sr., OH, Black Hawk volleyball
Butler had 30 kill in her Lady Warriors' 3-0 sweep over Pecatonica at BHHS on Monday, Sept. 21.