MITCHELL, S.D. – The 2012 Great Plains Athletic Conference volleyball preseason coaches’ poll has given the Dakota Wesleyan University volleyball team a little extra motivation for the upcoming season.
The GPAC coaches picked the Tigers to finish 10th in the 11-team league, it was announced late Monday night when the poll was released. Dakota Wesleyan received 16 points and finished just ahead of Mount Marty College, which was picked 11th with 13 points.
Doane College, which finished runner up in the league in 2011, was picked to win the league with 94 points and six first-place votes. Midland University took second with 81 points and two first-place votes and Northwestern College took third. The Red Raiders, Hastings College and Morningside College – which won the GPAC regular-season and tournament titles – all received a single first-place vote.
DWU is coming off an 8-26 season in 2011, including a 1-15 mark in the conference. The Tigers’ lone GPAC victory came against Mount Marty. The Tigers lost three seniors to graduation, but return a core of key players who, along with some talented recruits, are looking to prove league coaches wrong.
Leading the way for Dakota Wesleyan in 2012 will be sophomore Dani Bird. Bird, an Omaha, Neb., native, earned All-GPAC Honorable Mention accolades as a freshman after leading the team with 359 kills and 25 solo blocks. She also finished second on the team with 358 digs. Also back to help power the DWU offense are juniors Rachel Tinklenberg and Sam Sandau. Tinklenberg was second on the team with 233 kills as a sophomore in 2011 and led the squad with 88 total blocks. Sandau had 224 kills and 106 digs along with 33 blocks.
Sophomore Briana Jung will once again run the DWU offense from the setter position. She was the team’s starting setter as a true freshman, and is already seventh on the school’s all-time assists chart after recording 670 last season.
Headlining coach Eric Viney’s recruits for 2012 are a handful of 6-foot hitters who will bolster the Tigers’ front line. Sammy Fluck (6-0, MH), Hannah Hammer (6-1, OH), Mallory Jark (6-0, MH), Sarah Kruse (6-0, OH) and Elizabeth Mahsem (6-0, MH) will all look to contribute to Dakota Wesleyan’s offense right away as freshmen.
The Tigers start the 2012 season Friday, Aug. 24, against Peru State College at the Northwestern Tournament in Orange City, Iowa. DWU’s first home game is at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, at the Corn Palace against York College as part of the two-day Labor Day Coca-Cola Classic. DWU is also hosting the Corn Palace Classic Sept. 7-8.