By CONOR NICHOLL
Golden Plains graduated six seniors, including its top-three hitters and 75 percent of its kills from a 31-win team. The group included Kassie Miller, who enjoyed an excellent three-sport career for the Bulldogs. That included three-time first team all-league volleyball and consensus first team all-state basketball. GP lost 67 percent of its digs and 92 percent of its aces.
However, the Bulldogs have continued their success with an 8-0 start and No. 8 ranking in Class 1A, Division II.
Golden Plains has eight players on the roster, including three seniors: Breanna Rath, McHaley Carter and Sidney Taylor. The lone junior is Jordyn Fleckenstein, the team’s tallest player at 5-foot-9. The sophomore trio is: Anette Hernandez-Lopez, Hayden Wark and Siena Vargas. Anais Cepeda is the only freshman.
Ashley Arnberger is the head coach and the school’s principal. Rath and Fleckenstein delivered 109 and 98 kills respectively last year, tops among returners. Rath tied Miller for the team lead with 52 aces, eight more than Fleckenstein. Rath also paced GP with 308 digs, one ahead of Miller.
Golden Plains opened with a 5-0 performance at the Healy tournament. It marked the fourth straight season GP has won the Healy tournament. In the semifinals, Golden Plains defeated Tribune-Greeley County, 23-25, 25-20, 30-28.
In the championship, GP won 25-20, 25-20. For pool play, Golden Plains beat Rolla, 25-23, 25-14; Otis-Bison 25-22, 26-24 and Deerfield 25-9, 25-21. Since the start of 2019, Golden Plains stands 98-20 in volleyball.
On Aug. 30, GP improved to 8-0 with three victories: 2-1 against Ness City, 2-0 versus Triplains-Brewster and 2-0 against longtime 1A power Logan-Palco. Golden Plain was 4-12 against Logan from ’08-19, though is 4-0 since, per MaxPreps archives. GP has won 13 straight against Triplains-Brewster.
Rath, known for her athleticism and jumping ability, was honorable mention all-league, one of three non-senior volleyball players to collect Western Kansas Liberty League recognition in ‘21.
Golden Plains continues its across the board success. GP junior cross country runner Emma Weiner is the defending 1A state champion and won her first race this year. Weiner is one of five returning state girl cross country titlists for all classes. She famously won state cross country on a broken leg.
In the spring, Weiner finished second in the 1A 1,600-meter run. She won the 3,200 by more than 22 seconds. The 3,200 relay that featured Weiner, Taylor and Hernandez took sixth. Rath was state runner-up in the triple jump.
The girls took sixth at state track. Golden Plains girls have won back-to-back league conference championships.
In basketball, Rath is an outstanding defensive player and earned SIK 1A, Division II state all-tournament team honors last March. In basketball, GP has been final four and state runner-up the last two seasons with longtime coach Parker Christensen. The Bulldogs will enter this winter on by far the state’s longest regular season winning streak, boys or girls.
At the ’21 state track meet, Weiner won the 1A 1,600 meters. She took second in the 3,200 run and the 3,200 relay. GP finished seventh at state. Rath collected a seventh place medal in the triple jump.