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Season ends for Dakota Wesleyan volleyball after Park sweep in national tourney pool play

The Tigers conclude their season with a record of 25-10.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Abigail Brunsing spikes the ball against Park University in pool play of the NAIA National Tournament on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade
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SIOUX CITY, IOWA — In what was effectively a national-quarterfinal qualifier, the Dakota Wesleyan volleyball team didn't have quite enough on Wednesday afternoon.

No. 13 DWU and No. 4 Park University (Mo.) both won their match on Tuesday against No. 18 Grand View University (Iowa), setting up a chance for either team to clinch a trip to Thursday’s national quarterfinals. However, in DWU’s second national pool-play match ever in program history, the Tigers were swept by the Pirates on Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center. Set scores were 25-22, 25-18 and 25-17.

“We knew Park was going to be swinging for the fences based on what was at stake and they just ripped it, regardless of where they ripped it too,” DWU coach Lindsay Wilber said. “Our defense showed a lot of fight, stuck our nose in there and did a decent job.”

The Tigers (25-10, 10-6 GPAC) came into the match winning its last two playoff matches and only dropped one set in the process. Their lowest hitting percentage came in the only set they dropped of the opening-round at .093. Against Park, DWU had its worst hitting percentage of the playoffs at .071 in the third set. That was Dakota Wesleyan’s lowest hitting percentage since Nov. 2 against No. 1-ranked Jamestown with five kills and a hitting percentage of .061.

At the beginning of this win-or-go-home volleyball match, both teams looked evenly matched as both the Tigers and Pirates traded the first 10 points until Dakota Wesleyan went on a 4-0 run to take a 9-5 advantage. Park immediately responded with a seven-point run of its own to take the lead, forcing Wilber to take her second timeout of the first set.

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“We just got in a rotation that we couldn’t quite get out of,” Wilber said. “We had to take those timeouts just to think of our options and what we needed to do.”

Park — which has won national championships twice in the last eight years — managed to create its largest lead of six during the set, but the Tigers would rally to even it the score at 21. The Pirates then scored four of the next five points to win the first set 25-22.

In the second set, DWU got off to a start that the Tigers have seen all season, scoring five of the first seven points. That three point lead would be erased by Park as they tied the set at seven and took their first lead of the set at 13-12. Park would go on a 6-2 run, eventually extending their lead to seven and winning the second set 25-18.

Dakota Wesleyan started the third set identical to the second, beginning with a 5-2 lead. Park would storm back with a 9-4 run and retain the lead half way through the set at 13-10. The Tigers would eventually trail by 10, their largest deficit of the NAIA National Championships, and were defeated 25-17 in its last set of the season.

“I’m beaming right now and even though we lost, my heart is so happy,” senior outside hitter Jadie DeLange said. “It is tough to end the season on a loss but I told the team afterwards that only one team comes out happy. We need to have our heads high and I’m honored to be here and come out as a national tournament participant.”

DeLange finished what could possibly be her last game as a Tiger with eight kills and two digs. Abigail Brunsing led the team in kills with nine, while Ady Dwight and Mackenzie Miller had six kills each. Madeline Else ended the match with 31 assists and nine digs. Hanna Reiff led the Tigers with 17 digs while Mariah Gloe had 12 digs, and Tya Weideman had nine digs.

For Park, twin sisters Nada and Noura Meawad led the way for the Pirates. Nada had a match-high 16 kills and 11 digs while Noura had 13 kills and a match-high 21 digs. Vera Beltrame ended the match with 45 assists, and Debora Bernardi had two solo blocks.

Despite the season ending on a note the Tigers had not hoped for, Wilber said they have the majority of the team returning and the hard work this team puts in will have them right back here next year.

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“Jadie is our lone senior, but we have a great core coming back and a hard-working group,” Wilber said. “I think just being here will just increase their work ethic for the spring and what we want to do for next year.”

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Jadie DeLange blows a kiss to the crowd after the NAIA National Championships pool play match against Park University on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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