When Mallory Cooper was deciding where to go to college, she wanted two things — to be able to play college volleyball and to pursue her dream of being a nurse. At Dakota Wesleyan, she was able to do both.
“I knew on my first visit at DWU that it was exactly the right fit for me because I was welcomed by everyone on campus, especially Coach (Lindsay) Wilber,” said Cooper, a 2016 graduate of Clearwater-Orchard. “I chose DWU because I wanted to live out my dream of playing college volleyball while pursuing my aspiration to become a nurse. DWU allowed me to do both.”
Wilbur had never actually seen Cooper — the daughter of Mark and Cathy Cooper — play in person during high school, so she had no idea what to expect when Cooper arrived at DWU.
“I had never seen Mallory play in person in high school, so the expectations for her playing and contributing to varsity were pretty low,” said Wilbur. “But the minute she walked into our gym, there was something special about her and that she wanted to play immediately. Not necessarily because of her skillset, but because of her hardwork and determination.”
Those traits helped Cooper land a spot on varsity with some solid playing time. In her freshman season, Cooper tallied 250 digs with seven ace serves in a total of 32 matches.
Heading into her sophomore season, she looked to improve on the year before, which is exactly what she did because of her work ethic.
“She is the toughest kid I have had in my program here,” Wilbur said. “She gives 100 percent whether it is on the court, in the weightroom or in the classroom.”
In her second season as a Tiger, Cooper played in all 34 matches, racking up 30 assists, 14 service aces, 348 digs and 2.9 digs per set, which was third on the team.
When Cooper entered her junior year at DWU, she was voted team captain by her peers, showing how much trust they had in her.
“Being team captain was such an honor, and I knew that I needed to lead by example, so that’s what I set out to do at every practice and every game,” said Cooper. “My teammates trusted me, so I knew I was going to do everything I could to be a good captain for them.”
Cooper went on to finish with 402 digs her junior year, averaging 3.6 digs per set, good for third on the team. She was ranked 10th in the GPAC in digs per set and ninth in total digs. She also tallied her 1,000th-career dig against Briar Cliff on Senior Day.
Before her senior season, Cooper was again voted team captain. In her senior season, she had a career high game against William Penn, racking up 40 digs and six aces in the five-set thriller against the Statesmen.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know that I had career highs in that game,” Cooper said. “It was our first five set match of the season, and I just remember having a ton of fun with my teammates.”
In her four-year career at Dakota Wesleyan, Cooper was four-year defensive specialist, winning the libero spot her senior year. The two-year team captain finished with over 1,500 digs and 50 aces. She ends her career sixth all-time at DWU for digs with 1,582 while maintaining a 3.8 GPA in the nursing program. She was a two-time NAIA and DWU Scholar Athlete. Cooper was also a club volleyball coach for three years with numerous volunteering hours and activities.
Even with all of these accomplishments, Cooper said her favorite part about attending DWU was the lifelong friendships that were created.
“I am thankful that DWU volleyball brought me lifelong friendships and unforgettable memories,” she said. “These girls turned into my sisters over the years, and I will forever cherish our friendships.”
Cooper will graduate this May with her nursing degree and would like to pursue a nursing practitioner graduate degree.