Oct. 27—MITCHELL — The Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team saw some big players graduate at the end of the 2023 season.
But with a defensive-minded philosophy and a talented roster in 2023-24, the Tigers expect to be in the mix in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and contend for a third consecutive NAIA tournament spot in March.
The season gets underway on Sunday, Oct. 29, when the Tigers take on Nebraska from the Big Ten in an exhibition game in Lincoln. Here's what to know ahead of the upcoming season:
Coach: Jason Christensen, 13th season.
Record (2022-23): 23-9, 15-7 GPAC.
Postseason: Dakota Wesleyan reached the GPAC tournament semifinals, falling to No. 4 Dordt on the road in overtime. In the national tournament in Columbia, Missouri, the Tigers drilled Hope International in the first round by 29 points before a four-point second-round loss on the floor of the nation's No. 1 team, Central Methodist.
Key returners: Three starting guards from the national tournament a year ago return for DWU with junior Morgan Edelman, sophomore Rylee Rosenquist and senior Isabel Ihnen, combining to average about 25 points last season. The Tigers also have forward Lacey Sprakel back, along with guards Mya Wilson and Maleighya Estes.
Key departures: The Tigers graduated key size and about 33 points per game with last season's seniors Jada Campbell, Matti Reiner and Rynn Osthus earning their diplomas. Aspen Hansen, who played in 90 games over the last three years, did not return for her senior season.
Key newcomers: Two Wagner High School freshmen are among those to watch on the Tigers' roster. Emma Yost and Shaylayne Nagel are expected to be in the mix for playing time, along with Taliyah Hayes, a Sioux Falls Jefferson product who excelled last year on DWU's junior varsity roster. Grace Fryda, a sophomore from Scotland High School, is expected to contribute as well after missing last season with an injury.
Notes: DWU was picked sixth out of the 11 teams in the GPAC preseason coaches poll. ... The Tigers were 11-5 in road games last season. ... DWU was the nation's 15th-best free throw shooting team at nearly 75% as a unit.
Christensen on his team: "We're a team that is going to grow as we go. We're going to have a different makeup," he said. "In the past, we could get teams in the half court because we had the size. This is the first time in a while we haven't had a 6-foot-3 player. We're going to play a little faster and press a little bit more, and maybe people will think we're a little more exciting that way, too. ... I'm excited about this group because they come to work every day."
Christensen on opening at Nebraska: "It's going to be a fun time. We get to play the Cornhuskers, and what a better way to get your season rolling. I throw a lot of challenges at these kids, and what a great challenge that will be. No matter what the score is, as long as we can get positives out of the game, it will be a great experience."
Schedule notes: After the exhibition game at Nebraska, DWU will play its home opener at 3 p.m. on Nov. 5 against Valley City State. ... The Tigers also have an exhibition game at Augustana on Nov. 25. ... DWU will take a Florida trip in December, playing Florida National and St. Thomas (Fla.) in Miami Gardens. ... Four of the Tigers' final six games are at home in February.