SIOUX CITY – Jayde Bergmann loves the challenges the Morningside volleyball team will face this season.

For Bergmann, a former Dakota Valley prep, it’s her final year in a Mustangs uniform and she’s looking to make the most of it.

Morningside departed Tuesday for Fullerton, California where they will play four matches to open its season against three teams that all reached the NAIA National Championships in Sioux City as recently as 2015.

“I think we’re really excited to go to California,” said Bergmann, one of five seniors on the squad this season. “These four games coming will help us see our true potential to Morningside volleyball instead of the last couple of years with how it’s been.

“With these different teams we'll see a different game of volleyball and I think we'll do really great.”

Morningside, 20-15 a year ago, opens the season on Wednesday against Lewis-Clark State and Vanguard before facing Southern Oregon and College of Idaho on Thursday. The latter three opponents all reached Sioux City in 2015.

Morningside coach Beth Donnelly is anxious to see her team that has high expectations face somebody other than themselves.

“It will be huge, we haven’t had anybody else in our gym, we scrimmage the men’s team Sunday,” said Donnelly, in her third season. “I keep scratching my head are we good or am I just watching the same girls over and over and they’re just getting better within the reps.

“It’s going to be a little bit jittery even though we got the returners (nine that started over 30 matches last season). The competition is going to be a lot tougher than what we started out with last year. If our girls come in as hungry as they keep talking about I’m excited to watch, but it’s going to be a little eye opening, a little different volleyball on the West Coast.”

Morningside’s non-conference schedule includes contests against NAIA national tournament teams from a year ago in Corban (Ore.), Montana Tech and Bellevue (Neb.).

“I think our expectations are to increase our level of play,” said Bergmann. “We’re going to California and with the new teams that were playing in the different regions it will help us know where our game is at.

The Mustangs also play in arguably the hardest conference in the nation as evidenced by three GPAC teams making the final four last fall and Hastings defeating Dordt to win the national title. The initial NAIA national rankings released on Tuesday displayed that.

Morningside faced all four semifinal teams a year ago after defeating Park (Mo.) in pool play to begin the national tournament before dropping two subsequent matches to finish the season.

“I think our expectations are super high coming off that national tournament,” said Bergmann. “I don’t think we got as far as we wanted too. I think we wanted to progress more into the second round. I think that with all of us coming back and working really hard during the summer and working really hard during two-a-days, I think our potential is super high and our level of competition is super high as well.”

Morningside opens GPAC play with a Sept. 6 contest at Dordt while the first of nine home matches, eight GPAC and one non-conference, is against Mount Marty on Sept. 14.

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