DUNBAR, Wis. - The inexperienced Northland International University men's volleyball team has launched preparation for the new season.
The Pioneers begin with a roster of 14 players - just five back from the 2013 season. Of the five returners only one has any real valuable experience, Coach Dave Herron noted.
Min Shik Park, a junior two-year starter at outside-middle hitter, will captain this year's team. Others returning are middle hitter Jared Kimbrough; second-year rightside hitter Jay Hale; second-year libero Ethan Miller, and senior middle hitter Michael Stephenson.
"The team will struggle early in finding a setter to run the offense," Herron said.
The Pioneers have a strong freshman presence in the practice gym.
"They have tools," Herron said. "They just need to learn how to use them. It is always a challenge for us. We don't get players with experience. It is enjoyable watching players improve though."
Jordan Edgecombe, Dan Freston, Cody Metras, Jono Newlin, Nate Egerdahl, Brian Swank and Rob May all are starting a new experience with high speed volleyball.
"Oshkosh is always the team to be ready for," Herron said. "They have proven themselves time after time. Whitewater had a very good team and Marquette gets intelligent, talented players as well."
NIU hopes to compete well on the playdates and steadily improve through the season so as to be a competitive element at the WVC Championships in late March.
"The Pioneer men understand the mission of the program and a concerted, focused effort is continually needed to meet that mission," Herron said. "The team begins competition in the second semester with a road match at Michigan Tech Friday, Jan. 24.
The Pioneers will host a Wisconsin Volleyball Conference playdate tournament on campus Saturday, Feb. 1.