By Larry Leeds, Madison Daily Leader Sports Editor - Click here for Madison Daily Leader article
MADISON, S.D. - The Dakota State University volleyball team will be entering a new era in 2013 as the Trojans will be a member of the newly-formed North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) with a very young squad.
Coach Amy Veenhof, entering her fifth year as the Trojans' coach, has seven returnees from a 12-20 team a year ago: senior Shayna Dwyer, juniors Cailtlin Pick and Stacey Schuller, and sophomores Jasmine Parce, Michele Rogers, Chelsey Foster and Allison Thielsen.
"It will be nice to be playing in a conference as we will know our schedule," said Veenhof. "There will be a conference tournament that all the teams will get into."
Jamestown (N.D.) is the preseason favorite. The Jimmies received all five first-place votes and tallied 25 points in the preseason rankings. The Jimmies are followed by Mayville State (N.D.) with 18 points, Valley City State (N.D.) (14), DSU (13) and Presentation (S.D.) (5).
"The rankings are from what everyone did last year," said Veenhof. "We are a young team and we did not get many votes."
"We won't be happy getting fourth in the league," said Schuller, a junior setter from Jackson, Minn. Schuller will be counted on as one of the team's leaders this season.
"Schuller and Pick will be looked upon for their leadership for the young team," she said.
According to Veenhof, Jamestown has the player of the year, Sarah Becker, a middle hitter. "She is a very tough to defend," Veenhof said.
DSU almost doubled its roster size from last season with a great year of recruiting.
"We had 13 players on the roster last season," Veenhof said. "We have 22 players out for the team now."
There are 13 freshmen on the roster.
For the Trojans to move up in the NSAA ranking, the young players must develop throughout the season. To help get them ready for varsity level, DSU implemented a junior varsity program with 12 matches.
The main emphasis of recruiting for Veenhof was getting hitters.
"We needed to find a replacement for DSU record-setting hitter Kristen DiPaola," Veenhof said.
One of the hitters Veenhof brought in was junior college transfer Kelci Viesselman from Ridgewater College (Minn.).
"She comes to DSU from a winning program," Veenhof said. "She should be able to provide leadership and experience for us."
Viesselman believes she will be an outside hitter for the Trojans.
"It takes a lot of arm strength and smarts to be an outside hitter," she said. "You have to find the right spots to hit it to."
Both Schuller and Viesselman were named to the preseason NSAA volleyball team.
"It was a big surprise to me," said Schuller. "I was not expecting this."
Viesselman believes there will be a little extra pressure on her, and she is a little nervous. She has not played a match yet for DSU but has received a huge honor.
Joining the two DSU juniors on the preseason team are Becker and Kelsey Deragisch (senior) from Jamestown, Emily Plowman (sophomore) and Aurissa Martens (senior) from Valley City State (N.D.), Megan Goedert (junior) from Presentation (S.D.) and Josette Glatt (junior) from Mayville State (N.D.).
The Trojans open the season on Aug. 24 at Briar Cliff (Iowa) and will play 12 matches in 18 days. The first home match for the Trojans will be Sept. 3 against Briar Cliff.
"We are busy right away. Through the opening stretch, confidence and endurance will be key," said Veenhof. The Trojans have a pair of classics in the first 18 days.
"We will be shooting for better than our preseason conference rankings," Viesselman said. "We want to get first or second."
Assisting Veenhof this season will be Megan Kusler (2nd year) and student assistant Tom Mettler (1st year).
Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Sports Information Director