With Loads of Returning, Incoming Talent, Nebraska Wesleyan Looks Formidable
LINCOLN – With the return of seven of the team’s top eight attackers from a year ago along with the starting libero and some impact freshmen coming to campus, there are a lot of reasons for optimism at Nebraska Wesleyan.
And make no mistake about it, Wesleyan coach Rayna Cain is excited to see what the 2018 season holds for the Prairie Wolves, now competing in the newly-named American Rivers Conference (ARC) which was formerly the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“We have strong leadership this year and are excited about the talent we have in our freshman,” Cain said. “The American Rivers Conference is a competitive and strong conference every year and we are ready to compete at the highest level.”
Wesleyan – the only NCAA Division III program in the state – last competed in the DIII National Tournament in 2014 with a senior-heavy squad. It looks somewhat similar this year as the Prairie Wolves have three seniors that have been starters since their freshman years in outside Kierra Harder, middle Karrie Sestak and libero Lizzie Saale.
Here is a position-by-position look at Nebraska Wesleyan for 2018.
Avery Atkins, 5’5, Fr., Arnold, Neb.
Anna Gottsch, 5’8, Jr., Elkhorn, Neb.
Ashley Hamilton, 5’6, Fr., Hartington, Neb.
Timber Herman, 5’3, Fr., Burlington, Colo.
Cassidy Plooster, 5’7, Fr., Lincoln, Neb.
Kelsie Stovall, 5’6, Soph., Nebraska City, Neb.
Gottsch and Stovall split time last year with Stovall averaging 6.05 assists per set and Gottsch adding 4.67 per set. Plooster, however, comes into the program as the #47 overall recruit in the state last year and #7 setter and it’s very easy to see her coming in and making a major impact. Hamilton, another freshman, had a standout high school career at Hartington Cedar Catholic and was the #123 overall prospect last season.
Hannah Bellinghausen, 5’11, Jr., Lincoln, Neb.
Hannah Fleischer, 5’10, Soph., Ayr, Neb.
Nicole Gonzales, 5’8, Fr., Thornton, Colo.
Kierra Harder, 5’8, Sr., Elkhorn, Neb.
Taya Johnson, 5’7, Fr., Battle Creek
Callie Kohl, 5’9, Fr., Lincoln, Neb.
KayLynn Maslonka, 5’10, Soph., Elkhorn, Neb.
Olivia Schneider, 5’9, Sr., Arlington, Neb.
Kylie Sestak, 6’0, Sr., St. Paul
Taylor Stout, 5’10, Fr., Lee’s Summit, Mo.
You want to talk about a plethora of talent at the pins, Wesleyan has it. Harder was the kill leader for the Prairie Wolves last year with 239 (2.81 per set) despite being limited to just 85 sets. Bellinghausen started 15 matches a year ago and was second on the team with 1.85 kills per set. Gonzales and Stout are a couple freshmen that could step in and make an impact this year, as could lefty right-side Kohl.
Allison DeVries, 6’0, Soph., Omaha, Neb.
Carley Elznic, 5’8, Fr., Ohiowa, Neb.
Jenna Kramer, 5’10, Soph., Albion, Neb.
Sarah Oldfather, 5’11, Soph., Kearney, Neb.
Kaitlin Potter, 5’6, Fr., Dorchester, Neb.
Karrie Sestak, 6’0, Sr., St. Paul, Neb.
Cora Svoboda, 6’0, Soph., Ord, Neb.
Este Wilkinson, 5’9, Fr., Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Sestak and Svoboda both return as starting middles for Wesleyan. Sestak had 167 kills and 49 blocks a year ago while Svoboda had 169 kills and 70 blocks. Oldfather saw action in nine matches and had 53 kills.
Cera Craven, 5’8, Soph., Omaha, Neb.
Tomy Herman, 5’1, Fr., Burlington, Colo.
Lizzie Saale, 5’5, Sr., Lincoln, Neb.
Saale has averaged 3.04 digs per set over her first three seasons at Wesleyan and has 924 digs for her career. She also had a career-best 54 ace serves to just 23 errors last season and 546 serve receptions. Craven played in 16 matches and totaled 56 digs and 104 serve receptions.