DICKINSON, N.D. – The Blue Hawks will open the 2014 season on Saturday (Aug. 23) against Dakota Wesleyan University, at home, in Scott Gymnasium.
Dickinson State finished a tough season in the Frontier Conference with a record of 4-27. This year a new conference, the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA), and a large recruiting class has given the Blue Hawk volleyball program a new outlook. In the NSAA Coaches' Preseason Poll, the Blue Hawks were selected to finish third.
"I think we were selected third because the coaches in the Conference did not know what to expect from us," head coach Jon Stenman said. "We are a completely different team from last year, so judging us in the preseason was tough, even for me. However, I expect us to be competitive with the best this conference has to offer."
Stenman worked to fill the voids left by former setter Kelly O'Connor and outside hitter Melissa Avila, both of whom are student assistants this season. Stenman signed 11 new players for the 2014 season, including three six-foot players.
"In the offseason I really focused on getting more athletic and getting some length," said Stenman. "I believe I achieved both of the goals. Five of them are going to be in our starting lineup on Saturday and I have told them the sky is the limit for us. I will look for our top five hitters to carry us through any early jitters."
The 2014 recruiting class is a solid mix of youth and experience. Tessa Sian, Ashleigh Aufforth, Maddi Johnston, and Brenna Hansen all join Dickinson State as transfers. Shaylee Singleton, Miranda Kadrmas, Shayna Uffelman, Shelby Gustafson, Megan Dailey, Kyla Meadows, and Tori Baumiller make up the freshman signees.
"We may have brought in a large recruiting class, however only half are true freshman," Stenman said. "We have an excellent mix of youth and experience that should help us as the season goes on. This team has connected far faster than I expected which has allowed us to progress quickly."
The Blue Hawks also returned seven players from the 2013 season. Senior Natasha Malana will look to provide another solid defensive year at libero for Dickinson State. Malana finished the season with 443 digs, the fifth highest total in the Frontier Conference.
The Blue Hawks will open their conference play against Mayville State on September 19. Dickinsons State finished with a record of 4-4 against NSAA opponents, including two wins against Valley City State. The Blue Hawks have nine home games during the 2014 campaign.
The Blue Hawks' home opener against Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday is schedule for 12 p.m. The Tigers finished last season with a 7-28 record under former head coach Eric Viney. Lindsay Wilber took the reins for the Tigers in December 2013. Dakota Wesleyan's roster features 10 freshman and only one senior. The Tigers' offense was led by Sarah Kruse during the 2013 season. Kruse finished the season with a team high 226 kills.
The match is scheduled to start at 12 p.m. in Scott Gymnasium on Saturday (Aug. 23).