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Dakota Wesleyan University freshman Erica Herrold goes for a layup against Nebraska Wesleyan University on Nov. 25 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

Herrold, Sabers impacting Tiger women in first year

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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Dakota Wesleyan University coach Jason Christensen has a pair of “diaper dandies” on his women’s basketball team.

The term made famous by ESPN’s Dick Vitale refers to players who contribute on the basketball court as freshmen, and forwards Erica Herrold and Kristin Sabers fit the diaper dandy mold.

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Through the first eight games of the season, Herrold leads the team in scoring. The Dimock native is averaging 12.4 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game. Sabers, a Mitchell native, is averaging 8.9 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game.

“They have met all my expectations,” Christensen said. “When I recruited them, I told them both that I thought they each could get playing time right away. They have come in and played hard, listened to the upperclassmen and continue to work hard.”

Neither front-court player has started a game yet, but each has played in every contest this season.

Herrold averages 16.4 minutes per game, while Sabers averages 15.3 minutes per game. Both players sit behind starters Kim Johnson and Katie Johnson.

Kim Johnson, a senior forward, garnered second-team All-American honors last season. This year, she is averaging 12.1 points per game. Katie Johnson, a junior first-year starter, is averaging 11.6 points per game.

So far this season, Herrold has been paired up front with Kim Johnson, while Sabers has been matched with Katie Johnson.

“Having Kim and Katie for upperclassmen is incredible,” Sabers said. “They have helped us so much on where to go and where to be on the court.”

Herrold said having a solid group of four players up front makes the team a lot harder to defend. The Parkston High School graduate added game speed at the college level has been the most difficult part of the transition.

“It is so much faster than high school,” Herrold said. “We never really had to condition that much, but in college we all are in good condition because we have to be able to run up and down the court.”

In high school, Herrold started five years for the Trojans. She decided to attend DWU over Northern State and Mount Marty to pursue a degree in nursing and because of the interest Christensen showed in her basketball career.

Sabers spent her high school days playing for the Mitchell Kernels, where she was a member of the 2012 state championship team.

Both players say their experience in high school also helped their transition to the college game.

“The first few scrimmages you are bound to be nervous,” Herrold said. “But after the first few minutes you start to calm down. Our older teammates have also helped calm us down.”

Sabers decided to play basketball at DWU, instead of playing golf at USD, in part because of the excitement Christensen exuded when he recruited her.

Herrold and Sabers competed against each other all through high school as members of different AAU teams — Sabers played for the Dakota Schoolers and Herrold played for the South Dakota Stars.

Despite facing off on the court in high school, the pair has been friends since eighth grade.

“Erica and I have been friends for a while,” Sabers said. “Sometimes if we had a tournament in Sioux Falls, we would hang out at my aunt’s house for the weekend.

As for the freshmen’s bond on the court, Christensen said he hopes they continue to develop and become a force for the Tigers in the future.

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