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Blue Hawks volleyball eyeing a turnaround

When senior middle Tessa Sian initially saw the 2016 North Star Athletic Association Preseason Coaches Poll, she was none too pleased. The poll tabbed the Dickinson State volleyball team to finish ninth out of nine. But since it's release 10 days...

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Dickinson State’s Brenna Hansen, far left, celebrates with teammates Alli Hert, second from left, Tessa Sian, middle, Magdalyn Rauser (12) and Shaylee Singleton (1) after winning a point during a match against Presentation Oct. 31, 2015, at Scott Gymnasium. (Press File Photo)

When senior middle Tessa Sian initially saw the 2016 North Star Athletic Association Preseason Coaches Poll, she was none too pleased. The poll tabbed the Dickinson State volleyball team to finish ninth out of nine.
But since it’s release 10 days ago, the sting of the dead last result has dulled. Now she has a new approach to it.
“After the anger subsided, it was OK, because we have no pressure, nothing to live up to. Nothing but how we’re going to play our game, and it’s really nice because when we walk into a gym, a lot of teams take those polls really seriously. It’s a preseason poll, nobody has seen anybody play. You don’t know what talent someone else has,” Sian said. “Other teams aren’t going to give us a second look, which is great because we’ll just use that to our advantage.”
The Blue Hawks do have a few reasons to think this season will be better than last year’s 6-26 record. Jen Hartman, whose interim tag was dropped this offseason, added 11 new players to the roster - eight freshmen plus three transfers - and graduated no seniors from last year because there were no seniors to be had. They also return senior setter Danielle Boyette, a second-team all-conference player from a year ago.
Hartman said this offseason has already been an improvement from last year’s, when chemistry was lacking in the early going and the team bonding part seemed hurried.
This season, because of her new title as official head coach, she was able to bring in her first recruiting class. While the returners spent the offseason getting closer, the coaching staff was able to make the recruits feel at home even before actually arriving in Dickinson, something they weren’t able to do last season.
“We’re more prepared this season. We had a great group stay this summer. We had a group that stayed at home but knew they were coming. They knew who we were because we got to know them through the recruiting process,” Hartman said. “I just think that trust in everything is a lot stronger this year, whereas last year it all happened a couple of weeks before the season started. It was, like, ‘Hello, I’m Jen Hartman, I’m your new coach.’ It was hard for them, they didn’t quite trust me right away, and rightfully so, or trust us as a coaching staff.”
The bolstered roster, which stands at 20, has also meant more talent, more reps and more competition for spots. Last year, everything was more or less set before the season started, and that made for less of a sense of urgency.

According to Sian, that has been a big difference.
“There was a sense of security because we didn’t have very many girls and we didn’t have many players at each position last year,” Sian said. “This year really brought the competition level up because you know you always have to be on your toes and playing the best you can because we’re going to put the best players out on the court who have been proving themselves in practice.”
The Blue Hawks open up their season on Friday with a doubleheader against Northwest (Wash.) University and Montana Tech in Butte, Mont. They play another two matches the next day, and have another six against non-conference teams before NSAA play begins.
For DSU, which lost a five-set match to Presentation (S.D.) College in the opening round of the NSAA tournament last year, the beginning of conference play is where the goals for the season begin, especially because its first NSAA game is against that same team that knocked the Blue Hawks out last year.
“A specific goal, one in particular, is to win our first conference match,” Hartman said. “I feel like you get one chance to prove yourself in the conference, so that’s a chance we’re looking forward to.”
Anticipating a tough season last year, the team came up with the slogan “Ground Zero.” It was an analogy for where the team was at. It was about getting the rebuilding effort going in the right direction.
This year, the slogan, which is printed on the back of the team’s warmup shirts, is “Leave a Legacy.”
“It’s just to try to help start this program up,” Sian said of the new catchphrase. “It’s really just something to think about, one of those keywords our team can come together with.”

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