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'Greatness' sets standard for Dakota State women as March tourney time arrives

DSU has won 53 games of its 64 games in the past two seasons, including 27 of 28 conference matchups.

Courtney Menning
Dakota State University's Courtney Menning, of Corsica, goes up for a shot this season.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Archer, via Dakota State University athletics
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MADISON, S.D. — Raise the bar, raise the standard.

That’s been the path for the Dakota State University women’s basketball team since head coach David Moe took over the program five years ago.

“We talk about greatness a lot in our program,” Moe said a day after his team won its second straight North Star Athletic Association Conference postseason tournament. “Greatness is not an arrogance or cockiness. It’s a mentality of controlling what you can control in every single moment to be the best version of yourself you can be.”

That mentality has helped Dakota State to a steady progression of success in the past five years. Moe was hired in June of 2017 after years of being an assistant coach at Mayville State in North Dakota.

DSU in its first two years under Moe won a combined 16 games. Year three improved with 17 wins, but now his program is noticeably taking off.

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On Sunday night, when the Trojans defeated Bellevue University 83-69 in Watertown to claim the NSAA postseason conference championship, the win tallied No. 26 of the season and 10th straight for Dakota State. It's been a remarkable two-year run for the Trojans and Moe, winning 53 of 64 games in that span, including 27 of 28 conference matchups.

Morgan Huber
Dakota State University's Morgan Huber, of Alexandria, goes up for a shot in a game this season.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Archer, via Dakota State University athletics

“I got here five years ago and we’ve had a really fun run,” Moe said. “The first two years were awful, really hard. But we’ve kept our nose to the grindstone and kept working, and it’s just really fun to have the successes now.”

He uses a family mindset and has a roster loaded with South Dakota talent, including local starters Courtney Menning (Corsica) and Jessi Giles (Madison), both are guards, and forward Elsie Aslesen (Howard).

“I think about 85 percent of our roster is from within two hours of Madison,” Moe said.

So how has Moe built this team so quickly to be among the top in the NAIA? What sets it apart from the other South Dakota women’s college basketball teams?

“When I talk about the other schools in South Dakota, I tell the kids they’re great schools,” Moe said. “ … But we are a very close-knit group. We are a family, and with a family it’s not always all sunshine and rainbows. With siblings, they’re going to push you, push your buttons and challenge you and make you mad at times. Our teammates do that.”

Moe said recruiting locally will always be a top priority, with branching out in the region an added plus. But success breeds success, he acknowledges, and winning 50-plus games in two seasons can sure help bring in additional talent.

“I would not say that our program is better than any other program in South Dakota,” he added. “All I’m going to say is that we know who we are, we play a fun brand of basketball and if they want to come be a part of something better than themselves and something special as our family is, then this is the place they need to be.”

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Up next for the Trojans, averaging 84.1 points per game, is the NAIA National Tournament. And they’ve got loads of momentum heading into March. Last year, the Trojans made it into the quarterfinals of the year-end tournament.

Elsie Aslesen
Dakota State University's Elsie Aslesen, of Howard, goes up for a shot in a game this season.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Archer, via Dakota State University athletics

Giles leads the team in scoring at 17.3 points per game, while Aslesen is at 10 points per game and Menning averages 7.6 points. Savannah Walsdorf (13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds), from Wisconsin, and Lexi Robson (8.3 points and 4.1 assists), from North Dakota, are the other two regular starters.

“Wherever we go, it’s tournament time,” Moe said. “Whoever we go up against we feel good, because we know who we are. When it comes to playoff basketball, I believe it is the teams that really understand who they are and can play their game that will have success.”

The NAIA National Tournament field is set later this week.

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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