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Abby Orr signs with UT-Chattanooga; Peyton Neff signs with UNK


North Platte softball player Abby Orr signs with UT-Chattanooga; volleyball player Neff signs with UNK

North Platte HIgh School senior Abby Orr, left, looks over a document with her mother, Shannon, on Wednesday, as she signed a national letter of intent with the University of Tennessee-Chatanooga softball program.

  • Photo courtesy of North Platte High School Journalism

North Platte softball player Abby Orr signs with UT-Chattanooga; volleyball player Neff signs with UNK

North Platte HIgh School senior Peyton Neff, center, sits between her father, P.D. Neff; and mother, Pam Jorgenson, as she signs a national letter with the University of Nebraska-Kearney volleyball program Wednesday afternoon.

  • Photo courtesy of North Platte High School Journalism
  By Tim Johnson

Abby Orr ended her prep softball career at North Platte High School with program career marks in six offensive categories and she tied the record in another.

It’s a reason why the shortstop — who helped the Bulldogs to a state runner-up finish in Class A this fall — received attention from a number of college programs and landed a Division I offer.

“I couldn’t have done that without a lot of people pushing me out of school and in school,” Orr said in a Zoom interview. “I can’t do anything without my team backing me up and being there for me. That felt good I had support through anything.”

Orr, who signed a national letter of intent with the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, was one of two Bulldogs athletes to make a college commitment official on Wednesday.

Peyton Neff, who helped the Bulldogs earn a wild-card spot in the Class A state volleyball tournament last week, is headed to the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

“It feels good that I achieved a goal — one that has been a goal since I was younger, to play at the next level,” Orr said.

Orr verbally committed to the Mocs program this past May after a recruitment process that began with a call from the Tennessee-Chattanooga coaches at the beginning of her junior season.

She attended a camp on the school’s campus the next month and felt a connection with the program’s players and the school in general.

“I felt like we were family,” Orr said of meeting some of her future teammates. “Then when I toured the campus, I really liked the set up of everything and how it was spaced out.”

Orr, who is leaning toward majoring in business and minoring in music, is the Bulldogs’ all-time program leader in batting average (.382), hits (192), doubles (42) home runs (34), RBI (139) and runs (150). She is also tied with Jayda Paul with 45 career stolen bases.

Orr said there are a few aspects of her game she wants to improve on as she prepares for collegiate competition.

“Definitely mental toughness,” Orr said. “Just knowing that if you make a mistake or if something doesn’t go the way you would like it to go, its going to be OK. Just learn from your mistakes and try to make it a strength.”

Neff, a setter with the Bulldogs, initially visited UNK last October and felt a connection with the program which reached the NCAA Division II championship game in 2019.

The Lopers have made the NCAA tournament the past 21 seasons but the program’s success was just one factor in Neff’s decision.

“It also is a plus that (the campus) is only about an hour and 15 minutes away from home,” said Neff, who also visited Nebraska-Omaha, the University of Sioux Falls and Midland University, along with a virtual tour of Concordia University.

“Overall, it is a really competitive and successful programs, so that is why I was pretty excited to go there.

“There was definitely a lot of different levels (of NCAA divisions) that I was looking at,” Neff said, “but overall UNK was just kind of that meeting in the middle and just the best option for me.”

Neff averaged 9.6 assists per set this Fall as the Bulldogs posted a 21-12 mark and fell to Elkhorn South — the eventual state champions — in an Class A opening-round state tournament matchup on Nov. 4.

“It has definitely been an emotional last week just knowing it was the last time I am going to put on the Bulldogs jersey and play with those girls,” Neff said. “I wouldn’t trade anything for it. I feel every single year I have played has been so different and I have got so many experiences out of it. It’s just been great.”

She could have an opportunity to make an immediate impact with the Lopers program.

“With college sports it’s kind of hard to know but their starting setter right now is a senior,” Neff said. “Going in as a freshman, that spot will definitely be open so I just have to make sure to go in there and work really hard and then I have a pretty good chance of seeing the court during the season.“

Neff said there are areas of her game she wants to focus heading into her freshman season.

“Definitely increasing my tempo,” said Neff, who is considering majoring in psychology and minoring in business. “It’s a big jump from high school ball to the competitive game that UN-K plays. I just want to make sure in this offseason that I’m working on getting ready for that fast play and getting used to running a faster offense.”

Author: Tim Johnson