The Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) volleyball team begins the 2017 season with a match against Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) August 22 at Ottumwa. DMACC begins the season with a No. 11 national ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II poll.
IHCC, an NJCAA Division I program with a No. 7 preseason ranking, is one of a host of nationally ranked teams the Bears will face this season in their quest to return to the NJCAA Division II National Championship after seeing a four-year run come to an end in 2016.
"Our four sophomores have done a fantastic job with their leadership. They're stronger mentally and physically," DMACC volleyball coach Patty Harrison said. "We're a lot further along than we were at the end of the season last year and our incoming freshman have done a good job of complimenting the sophomores that we have."
Returning sophomores include right side hitter Rachael Bair of Braddyville, defensive specialist Lexi Killinger of Treynor, setter Leiah Paustian of Marshalltown and middle hitter Lauren Rieck of Ankeny. All four will be in the starting lineup in the IHCC match with freshman Gill Tupper of Nevada opening at libero and freshman Madison Paulsen of Council Bluffs getting the start at an outside hitting spot. Harrison said freshmen Peyton Parker of La Porte City and Brianna Harvey of Dysart will see playing time at outside hitter and middle hitter respectively.
DMACC graduated All-American Moriah Johnson last season and she will be difficult to replace, but Harrison said she feels good about the incoming freshman class.
"(Johnson) was a huge component of the whole team, but this team is more well rounded giving us a lot of different options," Harrison said. "Leiah has a year of setting behind her so she knows what to expect. That is going to be a key for us. She has really taken on that leadership role, but all of the sophomores have."
Other incoming freshmen on the roster include libero/defensive specialist Taylor Schnathorst of Webster City; middle hitters Tiffanie Koch of Hawkeye and Sadie Mia of Zwingle; defensive specialists Madeline Wagner of Carroll and Regan Scarboro of Wilton; setter Gretchen Durbala of Burlington; and outside/right side hitters Lacey Clark of Bettendorf, Jade Stepp of Oelwein, Kenzie Justice of North Liberty, Maryssa Soder of Ogden and Allison Hussey of West Des Moines.
Harrison said she sees leadership, work ethic, confidence and team chemistry as keys to the season. She said she likes what she has seen from a defensive and serve receive standpoint during preseason practice and scrimmage matches.
"We're getting the ball to the setter and are able to use our middles and run some plays," Harrison said. "When people see us play I think they will be pleasantly surprised."
Following the IHCC match, DMACC will travel to Wisconsin Dells, Wis., for the Battle of the Dells Tournament and will face third-ranked Owens Community College (OCC) in their second tournament match. The Bears will meet OCC again at the Parkland Volleyball Tournament along with top-ranked Parkland College (PC) and second-ranked Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC).
Sixth-ranked Coffeyville Community College (CCC) will be a DMACC opponent in the DMACC Invitational later in the season and the Bears will meet Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC) rival Kirkwood Community College (KCC) in their conference opener Aug. 30 at Cedar Rapids. KCC, ranked seventh, defeated the Bears in the NJCAA Region XI-A championship match in 2016, ending DMACC's four-year run of consecutive appearances in the national tournament. The two teams are expected to vie for conference championship honors again this season.