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Three new sports programs open this year at Fond du Lac

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CLOQUET, Minn. - Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has strengthened its intercollegiate sporting world with three new programs. This year, students will have a chance to possibly play and definitely watch women's volleyball and men's and women's basketball.

The school recently named the programs' head coaches: Michael Edmond, women's volleyball; David Wilson, men's basketball; and Jen Mackay, women's basketball.

Edmond joined the college staff earlier this spring and has already started building the volleyball program and recruiting student athletes. Wilson has been working on his new duties and is looking forward to expanding the college's intercollegiate athletic opportunities. MacKay accepted the duties and responsibilities of building the new program from the ground up and looks forward to the challenge.

Edmond, currently a resident of Sandstone, brings a solid and diverse coaching background to FDLTCC. He played high school volleyball at North Pocono High School in Pennsylvania, where he earned all-conference honors. He continued playing on collegiate club teams at Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in film and video. While at Penn State, he was a volunteer assistant for both the men's and women's volleyball teams, gaining experience in NCAA powerhouse programs.

''I studied volleyball under two of the top coaches in the country,'' he said. ''Both have a reputation for success. 1 learned a lot about what it takes to be the best.''

Between his junior and senior years at Penn State, Edmond took a year to coach at Saint Mary's University in Winona. It was another opportunity for Edmond to see college volleyball from a different perspective.

''There is a difference between Division I and Division III volleyball, but one thing still remains - fundamentals,'' he said. ''It doesn't matter what level you play on - high school, Junior Olympics, college, or the Olympic team: if you can't pass the ball, you can't play.''

Edmond now takes the reins of the women's volleyball team at Fond du Lac for its inaugural season in 2008.

''It's going to be challenging and exciting, but I think we're also going to surprise some people,'' he said. ''Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has shown a lot of support for its athletic programs. We are the Thunder, we have a new gym and a new team, and we want to make some noise in the conference this year.''

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The Thunder women's volleyball team will begin practice in August and play in the Minnesota Community College Conference.

''The intercollegiate athletic programs at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College are off to a great start with the debut seasons in football and softball this past year,'' Wilson said. ''I hope we can continue to build this new tradition on campus with the new program in men's basketball next year. It will be a lot of fun, certainly challenging, but I am optimistic that we will put a competitive team on the floor in our first season.''

Wilson, a resident of Cloquet, is originally from Merritt Island, Fla. He holds a Master of Science degree in higher education administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree in legal studies/criminal justice from the University of Central Florida, where he achieved academic honors earning three-time dean's list honors. Wilson was recruited to play both basketball and football in college, but ultimately concentrated on playing Division I football as a scholarship player and offensive lineman at UCF.

His basketball experience includes being an assistant coach for four years at Hibbing Community College, two years each with the men's and women's teams. He played 11 years in AAU basketball, and was a two-time all-conference team selection in high school. He was recruited to play college basketball by several schools. His coaching experience in the league gives him a head start on knowing what it takes to play and compete in the conference.

The Thunder men's basketball team will begin play in the Minnesota Community College Conference in the 2008 - 09 season. Home games will be played in the new Lester Jack Briggs Cultural and Recreation Center that is currently under construction on campus.

''There are not many opportunities in life to be a part of the 'first' of anything, so I am thrilled with the opportunity to be the first women's basketball coach for Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College,'' MacKay said. ''It is a top-notch school that provides student athletes a terrific education.''

MacKay, from Duluth, graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1997. She attended the University of Tennessee and Concordia College-Moorhead before attending the University of Minnesota from 1999 - 2002. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in sport studies with a coaching emphasis.

She played for the Golden Gophers, including being a member of the team that made it to the second round in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. She cites the 2001 - 02 season, playing for coach Brenda Freese while compiling a 22 - 8 record and the NCAA Tournament appearance, as her all-time favorite basketball experience.

MacKay holds a Master of Arts degree in Sports Administration from the University of Nebraska - Kearney. She moved to Duluth in January 2006 to work as an intern under Karen Stromme at the University of Minnesota - Duluth during a semester of graduate school. MacKay has been an assistant coach at the College of St. Scholastica during the past two seasons.

''My goal is to be competitive and win,'' she said. ''It's going to be Basketball 101. There is no advanced basketball yet. I believe you win with daily effort and commitment from each player. And with the quality of high school girl's basketball programs in the area, I won't have to go far to recruit athletes with those same qualities.''