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DWU volleyball team ready for fresh start

First-year Dakota Wesleyan University volleyball coach Lindsay Wilber is ready to make her mark on the Tiger volleyball program.

While DWU has a new face at the helm, the team itself will also be full of new faces.

"Basically half the team is new," Wilber said. "The freshman came in ready to go, they're just working hard and in the last couple of weeks, we've had some really good scrimmages."

The Tigers are coming off a winless season in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and will return 13 players, while adding 12 transfers and incoming freshmen.

"Honestly, our team is going to be pretty young," Wilber said, adding Mallory Jark is a key returning player after she has spent the past two seasons plagued by injuries.

Outside hitters Lauren Tadlock and Taylor Spence return to the team as sophomores and Wilber said she expects them to help lead the team.

"Taylor played the whole year as a true freshman last year, and you can tell she has matured a lot from that experience," Wilber said. "She will be looking to put the ball away on the outside for us."

Tadlock was a transfer at semester break last year from the University of Northern Iowa.

Wilber added Michelle Van Epps, a transfer from Iowa Lakes Community College, is the Tiger's starting setter and Sammy Fluck, who was hurt all of 2013 and took the year as a medical redshirt, is also a key member on the floor.

Maggie Stehly enters her third full season as the team's libero, or defensive specialist, and Wilber expects her to continue to be a strong passer for the team.

The Tigers were picked to finish 11th in the GPAC preseason polls, with Northwestern College picked at No. 1.

"That's what I expected and that's fine by me," said Wilber about DWU being picked 11th in the GPAC preseason polls. "I'm just really looking forward to first see what we will do in the preseason and then at the start of our conference play."

Having taken the head volleyball coaching job at DWU before 2014 began, Wilber has been pleased with the team thus far.

"The girls came into the season in shape and they're really working hard," Wilber said.

The team has one senior for the 2014 season in Rebecca Garcia. Although the team is young, Wilber said her players have a lot of collegiate game experience.

"I don't look at my sophomores as sophomores because they all had a full season of playing last year in the GPAC, which isn't an easy conference to play in," Wilber said. "I'm excited about the youth."

DWU will be in action for its first preseason match against Dickinson State University today in Dickinson, N.D.

"It's a long road trip," Wilber said. "We just looking forward to playing somebody else outside of our gym, and I look for us to be competitive right away."

The team's first conference match is on Sept. 13, when the team travels to Nebraska Wesleyan University.

"I want to see us be competitive in every single match," Wilber said. "Not look at it as wins or losses, but look at it as growth as a team and a program."