MITCHELL, S.D. – For the first time since 1993, the Dakota Wesleyan University volleyball team finished the regular season with a winning record of 18-14. Fourth-year head coach Lindsay Wilber helped turn the tide, while a veteran group of seniors set new records along the way.
Seniors such as Lauren Tadlock, Taylor Spence and Dana Misiaszek helped pave the way last season. Tadlock was named All-GPAC First Team after being ranked fourth in the NAIA in kills with 547. She finished her career in third on the DWU all-time kills list with 1,328. Spence and Misiaszek were each named All-GPAC Honorable Mention. Spence finished her career with 1,637 digs, placing her fourth on the DWU all-time career digs list. Misiaszek ended her career with 732 career kills, putting her among the ranks of the all-time best in DWU history. DWU finished the season 12th in the NAIA in digs per game with 18.8 and 33rd in hitting percentage at 22 percent.
"Those seniors took the next step and helped shape our culture; those girls propelled it in the right direction and provided a lot of leadership," Wilber said. "They worked really hard to get us there."
"Our sophomores worked really hard in the offseason, and I am excited about the future," Wilber added.
Just a sophomore, the Tigers will lean on Frick as she finished her freshman season third on the team in kills with 244. The Yankton, S.D., native turned in a season-high 17 kills against Concordia University and 15 kills against Valley City State University.
"Becky is able to put the ball wherever she wants on the court," Wilber said. "She is the kind of athlete you want everyone to be like. She is talented, positive and likes competition."
On the opposite end of the court, Fritz has the power to put balls away late in the game, and she will be relied on to do just that. Last season, the Winner, S.D., native finished with 1.6 kills per set, good for fourth on the team.
VanBockern was tied for first in blocks per game and third on the team in total blocks with 80 last season as a freshman. After a full year under her belt, the Tigers will look for a solid presence from the Arlington, S.D., native in the middle of the net.
Maxine Block and Sydney Eddy will have the opportunity to lead a young and talented Tiger volleyball team in the dominant Great Plains Athletic Conference. Block, the lone senior on the team, brings a powerful arm to the Tiger rotation, while Eddy, a 6-foot junior will be counted on to defend the right side of the net and use her height to her advantage.
"Max will be relied on to provide stability for our team and keep our newcomers on track," Wilber said.
Replacing two seniors who earned All-GPAC honors last season won't be an easy task. However, Wilber believes she has found the top replacement for former setter Michelle Van Epps and former libero Taylor Spence.
Defensive specialist Mallory Cooper returns as a strong component to the Tiger back court, playing in 32 matches while tallying 251 digs last season.
Sara Herman, a native of Reliance, S.D., was a five-year starter for Lyman High School. She tallied 2,856 digs, 2,645 serve receptions and had a 96 percent serving efficiency over her career. Herman was a three-time All-Conference First-Team performer and an All-State Second-Team athlete.
"Sara is quick and low to the ground," Wilber said. "She reads the ball well and reacts quickly."
Bridgett Knobbe was a three-year starter for Lutheran High Northeast High School in Norfolk, Neb. She finished with 251 kills, 495 digs, 15 assists, 41 blocks and 28 aces as a senior and was a member of the Nebraska All-State Class "D1" Second Team.
"Bridgett knows how to play defense and is quick," Wilber said. "She just knows how to play the game the right way."
Darby Duncan joins the Tigers as a versatile setter from Mellette, S.D., where she was a four-year letterwinner and helped her team to a Class "B" state championship. The former Wildcat recorded more than 2,000 assists in her high school career.
The Tigers return for another year in the the World's Only Corn Palace for the majority of the home schedule. The Tigers will play 11 games at the 3,200-seat venue, including three at the annual Corn Palace Classic over Labor Day weekend. The remaining DWU home games will continue to be played at the Christen Family Athletic Center on the Dakota Wesleyan campus. DWU opens the 2017 season at Presentation College on Aug. 23 in Aberdeen, S.D., while the first home game will be against Waldorf University on Aug. 29 at the Corn Palace.
The Tigers travel to Orange City, Iowa, and participate in the 2017 Red Raider Classic for a two-day event starting on Aug. 25. Wilber and Co. will take on Mayville State University; Corban University, an NAIA postseason participant and currently ranked ninth in the preseason NAIA poll; Valley City State University; and Waldorf University.
DWU begins GPAC play against Briar Cliff University at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the Corn Palace. The annual Parents' Night and Dig Pink Night is slated for 3 p.m. on Oct. 14, while Senior Night will be at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 27.