Chicken sandwiches and white water rafting.
The Pleasanton girls have been on quite a run recently thanks to a strong senior class whose bond has been built on sandwiches at the River Stop convenience store in town and vacations together that included adventures like whitewater rafting.
The Bulldogs current seniors have been to Lincoln seven times — four in basketball and three in volleyball — and won a game each trip. Their record is, well, guady: 224-19 in the two sports together.
As juniors, they finished third at the Class D-1 state volleyball tournament. But they went back to Lincoln and got the job done as seniors this past fall, winning the championship and capping an unbeaten season. It gets even better on the basketball court — they went undefeated and won the D-1 state title as juniors and are back in Lincoln on Saturday to see if they can notch a second title under their belt.
All together, Pleasanton has gone 64-2 in volleyball the past two years. In basketball, the record is 55-1. That one loss came this season to Adams Central, which was a two-point defeat to the C-1 Patriots, at the Nebraska Basketball Showcase.
How does one class have so much success?
It’s due to years of playing and hanging out together, said senior Katelyn Lindner, a Nebraska-Kearney volleyball commit, who’s averaging 10 points and four boards per game.
“We’ve been playing ball since, like, the third grade,” Lindner said of her class’ success. “Just from growing up with each other, we’re comfortable with each other.
“While we’re playing we just have chemistry. We know what everyone is thinking. After school every day after practice, we’ll go down to the River Stop and eat there, just hang out. We’ll go to each other’s houses before games. We spend time at each other’s houses all the time, my parents are like everyone’s parents.”
Pleasanton gets talented senior guard Grace Cave and the Weeping Water Indians in the D-1 championship on Saturday bright and early at 9 a.m. inside Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Back-to-back champs has a nice ring to it, according to senior Natalie Siegel. She said Lincoln was always the goal, even when they were just starting to learn the game.
“When we were young we won a lot. We didn’t know we were going to be winning-state-championships kind of good, but it was always the goal,” Siegel said. “We always looked at the state tournament and hoped we’d be there one day.”
Isabelle Paitz, the senior point guard, remembers the relationships began around the third grade when they started playing with each other. Paitz said the seniors hang with each other off the court, too. That includes going on vacations together.
“It’s allowed us to make a bond to where we know what everyone’s going to do,” she said. “Going in as a senior, that’s just what you dream of, playing as long as you can and winning the championship. It would be awesome if we did that.”
Senior Kaci Pierce, the team’s leading scorer coming into the tournament at 12 points per game, said her class chats about the run they’ve been on from time to time.
“We talk about it, yeah. We’ve had a great career here at Pleasanton together and have experienced that thrill multiple times,” Pierce said. “It’s a feeling you never get tired of.
“With all the experience we’ve had at state, we matured a lot in the past year, and that’s definitely been a key to the success. We’re more calm and collected now and used to the atmosphere. We know what it takes to win, so we just set our goals high.”
Pleasanton head coach Jordan Arensdorf, who’s been coaching for eight years and took Sandhills-Thedford to state all three seasons he was there, said he knew this class would be special when he saw just how athletic they were early in their prep careers.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of good players who like to compete and are coachable, and this senior class is no different,” Arensdorf said. “I think we’re hard to game plan for because we have a lot of girls that can score around 10 points a game, so we’re hard to scout.
I’d take a great team over a great player any day, and they came together, gelled well and play hard.”
The job isn’t finished yet, though. The six seniors — Pierce, Siegel, Paitz, Katelyn and Kinsey Lindner and Hailey Mollring — want another trophy.
One more trophy, and maybe the chicken sandwiches will be ready when they get back home.