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DWU volleyball opens practice next Saturday

With just more than a week remaining before the opening of fall practice, first-year head Dakota Wesleyan volleyball coach Melissa Waddell has more reason than usual to anticipate the opening of the season.

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With just more than a week remaining before the opening of fall practice, first-year head Dakota Wesleyan volleyball coach Melissa Waddell has more reason than usual to anticipate the opening of the season.

Waddell, who was the interim head coach all of last season before taking the position full-time in December, expects anywhere from 23 to 25 players xon the floor at the Christen Family Wellness Center when the team opens its first practice of the 2006 season next Saturday. That's an increase of around eight players from the team's roster of a year ago.

"Having that number is a huge plus," said Waddell, who signed 10 incoming freshman this offseason. "Not only for competition, but for practice where we have the people for six-on-six and have substitutes standing on the sidelines. Just our competition level in practice is going to be so much higher and so much better.

"We weren't able to run a full JV schedule last year just because of numbers and injuries. This year with the recruiting, we definitely needed to bring in some good, quality numbers just so we could run a full JV and varsity schedule."

Waddell returns seniors Blythe Novotny and Leslie Nebelsick, junior Brittany Kirkey -- who is a senior academically and probably is playing in her final season for DWU -- and also has senior Kristi Anderson out for volleyball this season as well.

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Anderson, 6-foot-1 and a Hitchcock native, played basketball for her first three seasons at DWU and has been with the volleyball team since spring practice.

"I'll take on one of those any time," said Waddell of Anderson, who, along with incoming junior Kalie Whealy, are the tallest members of the team. "She stayed here all summer so she was able to work out with some of the girls and do the open gyms. It definitely helped to have to start last spring and be here this summer as well."

While the team didn't compete in any official leagues throughout the summer, Waddell had a mandatory attendance in June for their annual team camp, where they were able to work out as a full group as well. Also, with a large majority of the team hailing from a close proximity to Mitchell, open gyms and team functions also were a regular occurrence.

"I think there's going to be some time to get a little acquainted, but it helped being here in June for a week when all of the new girls were here. I know they even had volleyball stuff together and they were doing something all on their own that they planned up," she said. "A lot of the girls are within a couple hours away so a lot have been willing to drive in once or twice a week to do an open gym.

"Of course, we haven't played a lot on the court with everybody, but I think we're going to be acquainted very quickly."

The team officially reports to school next Friday where they check into the dorms and settle in. Practice begins on Saturday; just 13 days shy to their season opener on August 25 at Jamestown.

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