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DSU volleyball team rediscovering drive to win following 0-26 season

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Dickinson State seniors Sarah Zeibig, left, and Shaunda Dvorak, right, defend an attack by a Valley City State player on Sept. 14. The 2011 season was one to forget for the Blue Hawks. They lost all 26 of their matches. But, second-year coach Maura Bronte and seniors like Zeibig and Dvorak are convinced this year will be much better.

At this point in the preseason, Maura Bronte is actually a little happy that the Dickinson State volleyball team went winless in her first season as head coach.

Bronte said this year's revamped Blue Hawk team is using last season's 0-26 record as fuel for their fire.

"The drive to win, the drive to succeed is amazing," Bronte said. "If we would have won two or three games last year, it wouldn't be the drive that it is now. You know what? Last year was horrible, but last year is what made us who we are. The returners won't let anybody slack."

DSU's first season under Bronte's tutelage couldn't have gone much worse for anyone involved.

The team won just 10 sets in the season -- only one match went five sets -- and didn't even have enough players for a proper 6-on-6 scrimmage.

But this is a new season and, for the most part, a new team.

There are six returners from last season on DSU's roster, three of them seniors, and a dozen newcomers, most of whom are getting a shot at spending quality time on the court.

"It's nice to have a lot a more girls and a lot of talent coming in," senior middle hitter Sarah Zeibig said. "It's refreshing to have more than 10, 11 on a team."

Zeibig, who is making the switch from outside hitter to middle hitter, is the Blue Hawks' leading statistical returner. She had a team-best 171 kills last season and averaged 2 digs per set.

Other returners include fifth-year senior middle hitter Shaunda Dvorak, senior outside hitter Ebony Sanders, junior defensive specialists Katelyn Christensen and Rebecca Johnson and junior outside hitter Chelsey Schwindt.

Dvorak, the team's tallest player at 6-feet, said finally having depth -- thanks to a barrage of transfer players -- is driving the Blue Hawks in their preseason practices.

"It's nice having a lot more girls because we get a lot more competition," said Dvorak, a Dickinson High School graduate. "We're able to push each other more because we have a lot more depth in all the positions now."

Juniors right side hitter and setters Kelly O'Connor and Melissa Avila will split time setting and hitting in the front row, Bronte said. Chelsea Seibel, a Saskatchewan native who transferred from Vernon College in Texas, is poised to be the team's starting libero.

O'Connor said the newcomers didn't feel like they were coming into a team that didn't win a match last season.

"The returners have definitely set a high standard of what's going to happen in the gym," O'Connor said. "We push hard every day and they expect good things out of us."

Junior Linaya Schroeder and junior twin sisters Priscilla Frias and Natalie Frias are also getting strong looks for playing time in the front row.

"We're definitely having some kids step up," Bronte said. "It's kind of an awesome thing for me. It's a tough job right now. I don't have a set starting lineup. They're all competing and working really hard so it's really exciting."

The Blue Hawks open their first Frontier Conference season Friday against former Dakota Athletic Conference opponent Mayville State at 4 p.m. and Waldorf College (Iowa) at 5:30 p.m.

While Zeibig and Dvorak said the team doesn't dwell on last season, they smiled and said starting the 2012 season with a victory or two would be nice.

"We try not to think about last season because it was a long time ago," Zeibig said. "We're all very, very excited for this weekend."

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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