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New faces, same results: DWU women excelling with new additions

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Jessica Mieras, right, shoots a basket as South Dakota State University's Paiton Burckhard (33) tries to defend during an exhibition game on Friday night at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Dakota Wesleyan University’s rotation is starting to take form. It’s not complete, but it’s getting there.

For all the back-and-forth between Haylee Mork and Jessica Mieras in the starting lineup, as well as the many freshmen to see the floor, the No. 7 DWU women might have its nine-man rotation. At least for now.

The emergence of freshmen Matti Reiner, Kamryn Heinz and Rynn Osthus resulted in each playing at least 14 minutes off the bench in DWU’s 71-48 win over Great Plains Athletic Conference foe Midland (Neb.) on Saturday. They combined for 11 points, six assists and five rebounds.

“It’s great because that was kind of the X-factor, and I think they’ve done a really good job,” DWU coach Jason Christensen said. “... The game’s so much quicker in college than it is in high school, so it takes a while for those kids to adapt.”

Each adds a different dynamic, which is a common theme across DWU’s (4-1, 1-1) entire rotation.

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Heinz has shown the ability to finish in traffic and has been one of the team’s most efficient rebounders with 3.4 boards per game in 12.2 minutes. Reiner, a Tripp native, can shoot and also take her defender off the dribble. Osthus recorded a team-high three steals against Midland, and looked poised leading the offense in a career-high 19 minutes as Kaylee Kirk picked up three fouls.

“I think they’re doing a fantastic job coming in during games that are kind of high intensity,” Alexandria native Kynedi Cheeseman said. “Especially Rynn (Saturday), she handled the 1 a lot. I thought she did a really good job.”

It’s that versatility which can lead to a plethora of lineups every game, but has Christensen still figuring out when to implement each. Even with Cheeseman, Kirk, Plankinton native Makaela Karst and Sarah Carr all playing at least 26.8 minutes per game, Christensen uncharacteristically is basing some of his substitutions on the opposition.

Against Dakota State, Mieras started and oftentimes matched up with Canova native Morgan Koepsell. Mieras adds a fourth senior to the starting lineup and ranks third in scoring (10.4 ppg) and second in rebounds (4.4 rpg) on the team. But against quicker teams, Mork has started.

“It does not matter to me (if I start), just as long as we can get the team win,” Mieras said.

Christensen added: “Honestly, I don’t know what we’re going to do. … It kind of depends on their rotations, too.”

Playing the matchups has worked so far, and the Tigers have plenty of ways to create mismatches throughout the game. Christensen is happy with this nine-man rotation, but it’s not in stone five games in, especially since it’s already seen backup point guard duties seemingly swap from Kelsey Valencia to Osthus.

“I’ve always tried to worry about what we need to do, but this year it seems like I’m worrying a little bit more about what they’re doing,” Christensen said. “It’s more of a chess match trying to coach this year.”

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