Defense, athleticism guiding DWU volleyball: Tigers off to 5-1 start after topping Morningside

Dakota Wesleyan University's Jadie DeLange (15) splits the defense of Dakota State University's Riley Grandpre (14) and Hanna Jellema (12) during a match last season at Christen Family Athletic Center.

After missing Dakota Wesleyan University’s 3-2 win over Briar Cliff, coach Lindsay Wilber couldn’t stand watching online for its next match.

She picked a good one to make her return.

The DWU volleyball team knocked off Morningside College on Sept. 19 to improve to 5-1 on the season. It was DWU’s second-ever win over the Mustangs, snapping a seven-match losing streak to the conference foe and it’s now 26-2 all-time in the series. It was DWU’s first win over Morningside since 2015.

It also came against a program that finished 17-13 in 2019 and advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

“It was a big win,” Wilber said. “They have a new coach this year. So they do things a little differently than they had in the past, but I feel like that was an opponent in the past we could have beat.”


Wilber missed seven days after giving birth to daughter Elizabeth on Sept. 11. Elizabeth is the fifth child to Lindsay and husband Matt, the DWU men’s basketball coach.

Lindsay leaned on assistant coach Katrina Talley and graduate assistant coach Emily Brunsing during her absence. Talley has been on the staff for five seasons, while Brunsing played the past four seasons for the Tigers.

“They know how I want things to be done and so I felt really comfortable leaving the girls in their hands,” Wilber said.

During the Briar Cliff match on Sept. 12, she watched online in her hospital room and couldn’t stand not being on the sidelines. She texted Madisyn Steinkraus -- a junior varsity player -- instructions from her room during the five-set match.

“I was texting her what I wanted them to say and make adjustments,” Wilber said. “I knew I didn’t want to do that again -- to my girls or myself.”

In the Morningside win, the young Tigers dropped the first set before picking up the next three sets. The set scores were 17-25, 25-19, 25-1 and 25-18.

“This young group kind of comes out a little bit tough in our first sets usually in all of our matches so far,” Wilber said. “So we just had a nice little talking after the first set and they turned it around.”

Freshman Ady Dwight powered the Tigers with a season-high 18 kills and six blocks. Freshman McKenzie Buisker and sophomore Mariah Gloe added 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Junior Jadie DeLange contributed 10 kills to the balanced-offensive attack.


“We are so much more balanced,” Wilber said. “We had four girls in double-digit kills on Saturday and I don’t think in my career in seven years that’s ever happened.”

Wilber said DWU’s youth and athleticism have shined early in the season. The Tigers have also hung their hat on defense. They are fifth nationally in digs per set (20.6) and sophomore defensive specialist Hanna Reiff (Northern State University transfer) is eighth individually with 142 total digs.

“Defense has always been our thing and this year being more athletic, they are able to recover on balls faster, even if they are not in the right spot,” Wilber said. “So yeah, defense has been a big thing.”

Sophomore setter Madeline Else ranks fourth nationally in total assists (271). The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 GPAC) will host Dordt College at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Corn Palace. It’s the first of five straight home matches for DWU. The Defenders swept the Tigers on Sept. 9.

On Monday, DWU announced a partnership with HomeTown Ticketing as the official digital ticketing provider for the 2020-21 athletic seasons. HomeTown Ticketing will provide DWU athletics the ability to sell tickets online and offer a completely touchless ticketing experience, along with providing additional security and reporting capabilities. It will help enhance safety measures related to COVID-19 by monitoring crowd capacities in real-time and limiting in-person exchanges.

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