Prior to Wednesday, the Dakota Wesleyan volleyball team had never been among the top-25 teams in the NAIA Coaches Poll.
And on their first appearance, they vaulted halfway up the rankings at once. The Tigers, who have started 15-1 and won their first five Great Plains Athletic Conference matches, are tied for 13th in the poll, which is the third of the regular season in NAIA volleyball. The poll comes out every two weeks ranking the top 25, which is derived from 233 volleyball teams and 21 conferences.
On Sept. 15, the Tigers were on the outside looking in, sitting at No. 27. In a two-week span, Dakota Wesleyan has beaten, at the time, No. 5 Dordt and No. 9 Northwestern, along with GPAC opponents Morningside and Briar Cliff for the second time this season. DWU also took down non-conference opponent York in straight sets. The Tigers were 15-1 in the 16 sets played during that span.
In the 13th position, Eastern Oregon tied with Dakota Wesleyan with 360 points. The rankings are compiled by a point system in which a team receives 30 points for each first-place vote, 29 for second place and so on through the list.
DWU head coach Lindsay Wilber said the team was excited to hear the news, but the group will not let setting a school record steer them off track.
“They’re excited. I have a good group of girls though, they don’t get caught up in it,” Wilber said. “This team is so mature … I know every time that we step on the court, I’m going to get the same team.”
The Tigers couldn’t soak in the enjoyment of finally being ranked as they prepared for a Wednesday rematch against Northwestern, a team that currently sits one spot below them in the NAIA rankings at No. 15. Northwestern is also coming off a win against then-No. 5 Dordt on Sept. 25.
Wilber expects teams later this season to focus on slowing down Ady Dwight to the best of their abilities.
“I think the No. 1 thing teams will try and do is stop Ady,” Wilber said. “She’s just a force. I think that’s what most teams will try and do moving forward since the word is out that she’s playing at such a high level.”
Dwight was named GPAC conference player of the week for the second time in a row this season. Dwight also has 234 kills this season, putting her in the top-5 in kills per set in the nation at 4.33.
DWU faces five GPAC opponents in its next seven matches, including undefeated No. 1 Jamestown. Four of the next seven matches will be held at the Christen Family Athletic Center for the Tigers and Wilber finds that to be a true advantage.
“It’s definitely going to be an advantage playing in our gym for this stretch and will try and get lots of fans there,” Wilber said. “Our fans have been awesome so far. We’ve had tons of people and they’ve been loud so it’s really been an advantage.”