Hello, Tiger fans. This is my first official blog post on DWU Tiger Talk, which will be my spot to write a little more creatively and in-depth about the world of Dakota Wesleyan University athletics. Check back often to see how our teams and individuals are doing in the GPAC and the NAIA.
It's been quite the week in the Dakota Wesleyan University athletics department. We hosted a home cross country meet last Friday, the first GPAC Men's Golf Qualifier last Saturday and a two-day women's golf meet Monday and Tuesday. However, it will really feel like fall season is in full swing tomorrow when the Tiger football team kicks off their first home game.
DWU hosts "Battle of the Wesleyans" tomorrow when Nebraska Wesleyan University rolls into Mitchell for a crucial GPAC game. It should be a big game in the standings as both teams will fight for position in the league's upper-middle class all season, but it's just as big for both teams' confidence. The Tigers opened last weekend with a 31-7 loss at No. 7 Morningside, and NWU had the good fortune of facing No. 2 Sioux Falls, one of the NAIA's powerhouse programs, in its home opener. The Cougars took down the Prairie Wolves, 35-0.
A few things to watch in tomorrow's game...
-The turnover battle. DWU was -4 against the Mustangs last Saturday, and the two clear differences in the loss were turnovers and Morningside's big plays in the passing game. Junior QB Jon Doom needs to do a better job taking care of the football (5 int last week), but he also won't be facing the Mustangs' stud secondary again. Look for Doom to bounce back and play with the confidence of a third-year starter tomorrow in front of the home fans, and look for the Tigers to try to force a few more takeaways on defense. They learned a valuable lesson about turnovers a week ago.
-Experience on defense. DWU is a relatively young team, but it has several key seniors and returners back on defense. Seniors Daniel Wysong (LB), Kyle Meier (DL), Ryan Deibert (S), Eric Adolph (CB) and Steve Viereck (CB) are all impact players in the Tigers' 3-3-5 defense, and if they play well tomorrow, look for the team's talented youngsters to follow their lead.
-Options in the backfield. Last week, sophomore RB Raymond "Boogie" Blossom was the workhorse in the backfield, with 22 carries for 90 yards and the Tigers' lone TD. This week, expect to see more of Boogie, but also look for more production out of USD transfer Jim Williams. The Alexandria native was eased into the game plan in Week 1, but its no secret that Williams can be a difference maker in the GPAC, and he and Blossom could become the exceptional "Thunder & Lightning" tandem that Tiki Barber and Ron Dayner never were.
Right now it feels like the calm before the storm. We've been prepping all week for tomorrow's big game and Football Alumni Reunion, and now all that's left is to watch the time tick by until kickoff. Hope to catch you at Quintal tomorrow, and if not, tune into KMIT, or catch The Daily Republic's Web cast.
-How 'bout that DWU men's golf team. In the history of the program, the best team score the Tigers have ever turned in is a 289, in 2006. In DWU's last two meets, the men equaled that score, and came close to going even lower. GPAC schools are going to have a tough time de-throning Adam Anderson's crew as the league champs. Upperclassmen Brett Abbotts and Nick Gates (the Co-GPAC Player of the week) have played great golf thus far, and Anderson is really pleased with the continual development of standout freshman Andrew Farrand. The team definitely misses graduated Tom Hoek, but Farrand has filled in just fine thus far. This weekend will be one of the team's biggest measuring sticks as it plays against an absolutely loaded field at the Mount Mercy tournament in Iowa.
-Speaking of golf, Kelli Baseley has been absolutely on fire for the women's team. The Tiger junior has been the individual medalist at all three tournaments the team has played in this fall. Her most impressive outing came this week, when she rallied from a shot back after 18 holes to cruise to victory at the Lady Tiger Fall Invite. In the process, she also led the DWU team past USD and USF for the team title. Winning is always fun, but it seems to be even better when DWU comes out on top against other teams from The Mount Rushmore State.
-The DWU volleyball team is on the road again to finish off a killer stretch away from home. The team will play four matches at a tournament in Hastings, Neb., this weekend to end its 14-game road trip to start the season. For you Minnesota baseball fans, that's the same amount of games as the Twins just played on the road when they had to leave town for the Republican National Convention (I would've left town, too...). The Tigers are FINALLY home Wednesday against Mount Marty College at 7:30 p.m., and it's possible that first-year coach Eric Viney and his team will take a cue from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and open the game by yelling, "There's no place like home," in the pregame huddle. At least things will come full circle in October, when DWU plays nine games on its home court and 10 games in Mitchell.
-The Tiger soccer teams both head west this weekend for their final nonconference games before GPAC play begins. The DWU men lost a 5-0 game at Westminster College in Salt Lake City this afternoon, and it has another really tough game Sunday against Embry Riddle (Ariz.). The women's team, which has already equaled last year's win total, is at Rocky Mountain College on Saturday. both soccer teams have played well and been in some really exciting games in the season's opening weeks.
Good luck to all the Tiger teams this weekend, and let's all cheer for a victory against Alex Linden's alma mater and current employer tomorrow!