The Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) volleyball team opens a new season when the Bears face Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) August 22 at Ottumwa.
Head coach Patty Harrison, who begins her 12th season at DMACC, said her team is ready for the season to begin.
"The girls have had a great two weeks of preseason and we had a nice scrimmage with Iowa Western Community College (IWCC) and Iowa Central Community College (ICCC) last week," Harrison said.
DMACC returns four veteran sophomores from last seasons's team that went 19-19 overall and finished second in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC) with a 7-1 record. The Bears saw their season end with a loss to ICCC in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XI championship match.
Parker earned first team all-conference recognition last season and Paulsen received honorable mention honors.
Other sophomore returnees include outside hitter Madeline Wagner of Carroll, setter/right side hitter Gretchen Durbala of Burlington, defensive specialist Carissa Smith of Monmouth, Ill., and outside hitter/right side hitter Kenzie Justice of North Liberty.
"This year is nice because we've got both of our outside hitters returning and they saw a lot of playing time last year," Harrison said. "That gives us a solid base and they are really accepting their roles as leaders."
Harrisons said 6-foot-1 incoming freshman Amber Dilsaver of Fort Madison, a middle hitter, could make an immediate impact and that the other incoming freshmen will provide depth.
Other incoming freshmen include defensive specialist/libero/outside hitter Daiton Martin of Essex, outside hitter Darian Gray of Mechanicsville, outside hitter/right side hitter Kyra Ikeda of Fairfax, setter Cailey Schaa of Council Bluffs, defensive specialist/libero Keimoney Lang of Iowa City, setter Rachel Pleas of Kauai, Hawaii, middle hitter/right side hitter Aniyah Loftus of Vancouver, B.C., right side hitter Ashley Gales of Granger, outside hitter/right side hitter Tahjahnique Haire of Rockford, Ill., middle hitter/outside hitter Taylor Lux of Carroll and defensive specialist Audrey Vacek of Ankeny.
Parker, Paulsen, Tupper, who was a libero last season, and Clark are expected to be in the starting lineup against IHCC along with Haire and Dilsaver.
"We have 21 girls on the roster and we think that's a lot, but then it comes down to the regional finals and I sure could have used a couple more options on the right side," Harrison said.
Harrison said Schaa will see playing time at setter, Ikeda at right side hitter and Martin and Lang will vie for playing time at libero/defensive specialist.
Harrison said leadership and maturing of the returning sophomores are keys to the season.
Following the match with IHCC, the Bears will travel to Naperville, Ill., for the Waubonsee Tournament Aug. 24 and 25 before opening the IHCC season against arch rival Kirkwood Community College (KCC) on Aug. 29. That match will be played inside the DMACC gymnasium.
Harrison said regardless of what DMACC's overall and conference record is, the season comes down to the NJCAA Region XI tournament in early November. The Region XI champion advances to the NJCAA Volleyball National Championship Nov. 15 to 17 at Charleston, W.V. DMACC has not qualified for the national tournament since the 2015-16 season when the Bears finished fourth nationally.
"We've got to get back there," Harrison said. "And when you get to the national tournament you've got to rock. That's the challenge and that's the goal. The girls understand that each one of these matches is like the regional final. You've got to step up, make an impact and win those close games."