DWU volleyball team reaches elusive GPAC tournament

Dakota Wesleyan University's Madeline Else sets the ball as teammate Mackenzie Miller looks on during a match against College of St. Mary earlier this season at the Corn Palace.

The Dakota Wesleyan University volleyball team finally broke through.

Playing in perhaps the nation’s toughest volleyball conference, the Tigers have been knocking on the door of qualifying for the conference tournament in recent years. Last year, the senior-dominant Tigers finished 20-12 and that still wasn’t good enough to make the tourney.

DWU coach Lindsay Wilber envisioned the 2020 campaign would be a rebuilding year, but instead, the young Tigers secured the elusive GPAC berth. DWU sports a 12-8 overall record and is 8-8 in the GPAC, which qualified five teams for last year’s national tournament.

“We have a really young group so this wasn’t what I was expecting when we entered the season,” Wilber said. “I thought maybe last year’s group would be the one to break us in but this young group just plays with a lot of heart and just really no care attitude. They just get out there and play volleyball.”

Wilber, who also recorded her 100th career win this season, has never reached the tournament as DWU’s coach in her six previous seasons. She’ll have to wait a little longer, too.


The GPAC tournament won’t be until the spring, but the exact date is still undetermined. The Tigers will also try to squeeze in some matches before the conference tournament.

But the delay doesn’t diminish the long-awaited achievement.

“All those years of just trying to break into the GPAC and finally we did it this year,” Wilber said. “So it feels really good as a coach.”

The Tigers did it with a host of free faces, too. Freshman Ady Dwight delivered as a middle hitter, racking up team-highs in kills (241) and blocks (83). She’s fourth nationally in total blocks and eighth nationally in kills. Fellow freshman middle blocker McKenzie Buisker (146 kills/54 blocks) complemented Dwight at the net.

Sophomore outside hitters Mariah Gloe (180 kills/33 blocks) and Mackenzie Miller (177 kills/34 blocks) also enjoyed breakthrough seasons. Junior outside hitter Jadie DeLange contributes 147 kills.

Sophomore defensive specialist Hanna Reiff is seventh nationally in digs (342), while sophomore setter Madeline Else ranks No. 1 nationally in assists (818).

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