Lindsay Wilber wants to give her team a chance to prove itself.
The Dakota Wesleyan University volleyball team will play in non-conference tournaments in Illinois and Nebraska before another daunting conference slate.
In total, the Tigers will play seven teams that qualified for last year’s national tournament.
“I was trying to get some better non-conference games,” Wilber said about DWU’s schedule. “We beat three teams that made the national tournament last year in non-conference. It didn’t mean anything for us because of the way we finished the conference. But we are just trying to prove ourselves more that we are legit, even though we don’t always finish in the top of our conference.”
The Tigers will play in the Trinity International tournament on Aug. 21-22 in Deerfield, Illinois. After three more non-conference matches, DWU will play in the Bellevue tournament on Sept. 4-5 in Bellevue, Nebraska.
DWU will see a mix of teams from different conferences and states at the tournaments. It will play teams from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Montana and California in the non-conference tournaments. The Tigers will play last year’s national runner-up Westmont (Calif.) in their final match of the Bellevue tournament, which featured 25 teams from across the country last season.
“The preseason tournaments are a lot of fun because you see different teams,” Wilber said. “You get to know kind of who you are going to be and then you kind of can tell, ‘Hey are we going to compete in the conference or not.’ ”
But then the Great Plains Athletic Conference schedule is a different beast. Concordia University, University of Jamestown, Morningside College, Northwestern College and Saint Mary all advanced to the national tournament in 2019.
Wilber added the non-conference slate will be a good gauge for her team, but the GPAC schedule presents a different set of challenges.
“Those non-conference tournaments are so different than how the GPAC plays,” Wilber said. “The GPAC has its own style of volleyball. It’s just ball control, ball control and controlling the tempo of the games. … The GPAC plays a different style of volleyball than a lot of the teams we run up against.”
The Tigers finished 20-12 last season and 4-12 in the GPAC. They graduated five seniors that were instrumental in changing the trajectory of the program.
DWU, like the rest of the college volleyball world, is currently unable to participate in spring workouts and conditioning on campus. The COVID-19 pandemic will hinder the development of teams over the next few months before the fall. The Tigers will lean heavily on underclassmen, including a host of freshmen to offset the departing seniors.
“It’s going to be a different preseason because you can’t go in hard right away because no one will be lifting hard all summer,” Wilber said. “They will be able to do what they can at home, but I just don’t forsee weight rooms opening up. Everyone is in the same boat. It will be a different preseason.”