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New Hillmen coaches get first looks
Duerst, Bailey begin work with Platteville High School volleyball and football programs
Interim Platteville High School volleyball coach Danielle Duerst explains a drill to her team during last Tuesdays contact day.

PLATTEVILLE — The sidelines at Platteville High School will have a pair of new leaders this fall.

Danielle Duerst was recently named the interim varsity volleyball coach, while Platteville Middle School physical education teacher Ryley Bailey was tabbed to take over the Platteville football program in late May.

Duerst, a 2007 graduate of Darlington High School, is filling in for coach Lindsay Nihles, who led the Hillmen to a 52–27 record the past two years. Nihles is taking a one-year leave of absence to give birth to her first child.

Duerst played high school volleyball under current PHS varsity reserve coach Tom Ingwell during her playing days and has been the varsity reserve coach at Darlington for the past nine seasons. When contacted by Ingwell to be a one-year fill-in head coach, Duerst eagerly jumped at the opportunity.

“It doesn’t really bother me being an interim coach,” said Duerst, a graphic designer at The Shopping News. “I look at it as a great opportunity. Tom was my coach in high school and he will be right there with me, and my sister [Stacy Temperly] is going to be the freshmen coach. It will be really good experience and hopefully down the road I can have a varsity team of my own for awhile.”

Duerst describes her coaching style as laid back.

“If the girls give me respect, I am going to give them respect in return,” added Duerst. “I just want to help them improve. I’ve been at Darlington for nine years. I know how things work there. I don’t know how things work at Platteville quite yet. But I will go with the flow and learn as we go.”

The Hillmen have been holding contact days on Tuesday mornings since June 26, giving Duerst an opportunity to get to know her new team. The Hillmen have one contact day left on July 31 before fall practice begins Aug. 14.

“I think it’s been going really well so far. Seeing the talent we have coming back, I’m just excited to get in the gym, get to work and get started with the season.

The Hillmen finished 18–22 a year ago and tied for second place in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference at 7–3. Platteville returns four starters in senior Skye Digman (first-team All-SWC MH), Britney Baker (second-team All-SWC S), Emilie Busch (second-team All SWC Libero) and sophomores Izzy Carroll (second-team MH) and Becca Hoyer (honorable mention All-SWC OH).

Meanwhile, Bailey inherits a Hillmen football program that went 8–3 a year ago and won a share of the SWC title with a 4–1 mark in conference play. Bailey, a native of Elburn, Ill., had his first chance to work with his new team at last week’s Hillmen Team Camp.

“I couldn’t have been happier with how the week went,” said Bailey. “I planned out everything for the entire week and we were ahead of where I was expecting by Wednesday. It a good group of kids and its going to be a fun exciting season for Platteville football.”

Bailey, who caught 182 passes for 2,217 yards and 22 yards in his four-year career at UW–Plattevile and served as an assistant coach for the Pioneers the past three seasons, replaces the defensive-minded Kyle Craig. Craig went 12–9 in his two years as Platteville’s head coach.

“It’s nice to be the person in charge, but being the head coach comes with a lot more responsibility,” said Bailey. “I am excited for the challenge and I am sure there will be a lot of learning moments this first season, but it’s been a great so far.”

Bailey will also take over as the Hillmen offensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching duties and he didn’t waste any time installing his new spread offense that is very similar to UW–Platteville’s spread offense in terms of formations and terminology.

“It’s going to look a lot different than what Platteville High School fans are used to seeing in the past,” admitted Bailey.

Senior Ethan Bernhardt returns at quarterback to run the new spread offense after completing 108 of 186 passes for 1,536 yards and 19 TDs as a junior. Seniors Zach White (20 receptions, 259 yards, 4 TDs) and Donovan Blevins (12–145–1) return as Bernhardt’s top targets.

Junior A.J. Barner (35 rushes, 249 yards, 2 TDs) is the team’s top returning rusher. Seniors Ian Carter and Caleb Lueder and junior Isaiah Altflisch return as starters on the offensive line.

Scott Statz will replace the departed Craig as Platteville’s defensive coordinator. He will also coach linebackers and quarterbacks. Statz led the Hillmen to a 95–52 record, three conference titles and the 2014 WIAA Division 4 state championship game in his 11 years as Platteville’s head coach from 2003–2014. He has also been the offensive coordinator for the past 14  seasons.

Former Belmont head coach Jason Weittenhiller has joined the PHS staff as a volunteer assistant coach after a year away from football. He was the Braves’ head coach from 2008–15. He will coach running backs, outside linebackers and special teams.

Matt Withrow, a PHS grad who played offensive line at UW–Eau Claire, is taking over as Plattevilee’s offensive and defensive line coach.

The Hillmen report to fall camp for first day of practice on Tuesday.