Peyton Groft started Dakota State University’s weekend slate needing 41 digs to tie Sonja Kamrud’s program record for career digs.
Kamrud was a member of the DSU volleyball team from 1996-99 and finished her career with 2,086 career digs. She’s also the mother of current DSU volleyball player Maddi Langerock.
Now, 23 years later, DSU has a new career digs leader.
Groft opened the weekend by recording 40 digs against Valley City State to get within one dig of Kamrud’s record.
On Saturday against Dickinson State University, Groft broke the record during the first set and finished the match with 16 digs to become the program’s new all-time leader in digs.
“Simply to be in the running for the program record is really special to me because I get the opportunity to have my name among some of the best volleyball players at DSU,” Groft said. “My teammates have been so encouraging to me, push me in every workout and practice, and motivate me every game to dig more balls up, and I truly would not even be close to the record without every single one of my teammates’ support.”
Prior to becoming the program’s all-time leader in digs, Groft eclipsed the 2,000 career dig mark on Sept. 22, during a match against Mayville State. It’s a career milestone that Groft never imagined she would reach when she started her collegiate career at DSU back in 2018.
“Reaching the 2,000 career digs mark is truly something I never thought was possible for me,” Groft said. “As a freshman, I was so grateful to even get a varsity jersey, let alone get to play a few rotations, so looking back from where I am now, I am so appreciative of the coaching staff for giving me an opportunity to show what I can do and helping me get a little better every single day.”
Groft has been watching and playing volleyball for as long as she can remember. Her mother, Nora Groft, is the head volleyball coach at Northwestern High School in Mellette and took Peyton to a volleyball match when she was seven months old. She’s been around the game ever since.
“I have been playing volleyball long before I can remember,” Groft said. “My mom took me to my first state volleyball tournament when I was just 7 months old, and I have basically grown up in the gym ever since. As a child, I would practice passing in our living room with my dad hitting volleyballs at me, and I definitely broke quite a few picture frames in the process. I would also hang out at our high school girls’ practice after school, running warm-up laps with them, shagging balls, filling water bottles, taking stats and hopping in a few drills whenever I could. Whether I was actually being helpful or just a fun distraction. I played competitively for the first time in third grade in a YMCA volleyball league and fourth grade on a traveling club team, and I have loved playing ever since.”
Any time a prep athlete goes on to play a college sport, that team becomes an adopted second family. There are long road trips for away games. The countless hours practicing and in the weight room. That family environment is a big reason why Groft loves the game of volleyball.
“I love the team aspect of the sport of volleyball,” Groft said. “As Coach Amy Veenhof always tells us, ‘volleyball is the ultimate team sport.’ To me, my teammates really are family, and we support, motivate and challenge each other just like a true family would. None of us could push through the tough practices, games or workouts without each other, and we have each other’s backs at all times.”
Groft said she owes a great deal of her success to her parents. Both her father and mother helped her develop a passion for the game of volleyball at an early age and continued to support her as she got older.
“Both my parents were extremely supportive of my interest in volleyball, allowing me to play in club tournaments, go to camps all summer long, buy me whatever gear I needed, and always being there to hit or toss to me if I wanted to pass a few volleyballs,” Groft said. “My mom, in particular, had a huge influence on me becoming a volleyball player because she allowed me to be completely immersed in the volleyball atmosphere at her practices every day after school. This not only introduced me to the sport but also developed my love for the game and showed me how fun volleyball can be. She always kept me involved in practice in some way, and once I got old enough to actually play for her, she challenged me to always try my best, but also knew when to draw the line and be just mom instead.”
Another key figure in Groft’s success on the court has been her sister, Madalyn Groft. The two have been playing together since they were kids and are sharing the court together at DSU.
“I have loved playing with my sister,” Groft said. “While we may have had our typical sister fights all the time growing up, we have played together forever and have a great connection on the court. My parents were really good about encouraging us to get along as kids because they knew we would be spending a lot of time together playing sports when we got to middle school and high school. One thing that I really appreciate about Madalyn is how hard she is willing to work to get better, and she is always happy to go to the gym to get more reps in with me. I definitely think being able to bounce off each other and push each other harder during practices and workouts has made us both better volleyball players, athletes and people in general.”
Reaching the 2,000 career dig mark and becoming the program’s all-time digs leader is a testament to all the hard work that Groft has put in during her volleyball career. It’s an accomplishment that she knows she would not have reached without the support of all the people that have helped her along the way.
“Getting 2,000 digs was extremely motivating to me because it showed me that all my hard work, from back when I was a kid passing volleyballs in my living room to now as a collegiate athlete, has paid off,” Groft said. “I am so thankful to each and every teammate, coach and competitor that I have come across in my long journey who have made me a better volleyball player and helped me get to this point in my career today.”
The Trojans are currently 11-11 overall and are halfway through the 2022 season. As the clock starts to wind down on Groft’s playing career, she’s only got one thing in mind.
“My goal for this season is to have as much fun as I can and to never take anything for granted,” Groft said. “This season has proved to me that my time playing volleyball is limited, so I really need to enjoy every opportunity I have to step out onto the court and put my best effort forward day in and day out. I also would really love to see our team make it back into the national tournament and play against some really elite competition in late November.”