The Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's volleyball team made its final preparations on Thursday for the NAIA Region IX Tournament to be held on Friday and Saturday at Houghton (N.Y.) College.
The Lady Cougars (35-11) are the top seed in this year's tournament after winning the American Mideast Conference Tournament last weekend. MVNC finished as the NAIA Region IX Tournament runner-up last year as the team fell to the University of Findlay in the championship match.
The Lady Cougars are led this season by junior outside hitters Amanda Schumm and Darcee Hoberg and junior setter Andrea Rudd. All three players were named to the AMC First Team this year. Schumm (3.54 kills per game) and Hoberg (3.48 kills per game) supply the firepower for MVNC's offensive attack, while Rudd (1,789 assists) is on pace to break the single-season school assist mark.
Malone College, who shared the regular-season AMC title with the Lady Cougars, is the second seed in the tournament. The Lady Pioneers (28-11) are led by senior outside hitter Kim Slone, the AMC Player of the Year who averages 3.71 kills per game. Junior outside hitter Kelly Watt (3.09 kills per game) and junior middle hitter Erin McAlarney (3.48 digs per game) were also AMC First Team selections.
Houghton, the host school, is the third seed after winning the Northeast Atlantic Conference Tournament. The Lady Highlanders (23-11) are led by junior outside hitter Sarah Tooley (4.09 digs per game), who was an NAC First Team selection. Senior outside hitter Linda Shea, junior middle blocker Monica Wagoner, and freshman setter/outside hitter Alicia Van Eck were also NAC Second Team picks.
Cedarville University (28-12) is the fourth seed in the tournament. The Yellow Jackets are led by three AMC First Team selections: junior middle hitter Heather van der Aa (4.32 kills per game), senior setter Lori Bunger (11.43 assists per game), and senior outside hitter Leah Ziegenfuss (3.13 kills per game).
Daemen (N.Y.) College is the fifth seed in the tournament after advancing to the championship match of the NAC Tournament last weekend. The Lady Warriors (26-10) are led by junior setter Erin Holahan and junior middle hitter Katie Schrantz, who were both named to the NAC First Team.
Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, the NAC regular-season champion, is the sixth seed in the tournament. The Lady Raiders (38-9) are led by senior outside hitter Heather Denk, who was named the NAC Player of the Year. Senior middle hitter Cassandra Libath, junior outside hitter Kimber Shelton, and sophomore setter Meghan McDaniel were also NAC First Team selections.
"This should be a very exciting and competitive tournament," said MVNC head coach Paul Swanson. "We have as much of a chance (to win the tournament) as anyone, but all of these teams are tough to beat. I think that our team is very well-prepared, eager to compete, and grateful for the opportunity."
The tournament begins with each team playing two pool play matches on Friday. The Lady Cougars will face Roberts Wesleyan at 3:00 p.m. and Houghton at 7:00 p.m. Then, the top two teams from each pool will advance to the semifinals at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday with the championship match to follow at 2:00 p.m.
The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic berth in the 2000 NAIA National Tournament that will be held at Palm Beach Atlantic College in West Palm Beach, Florida, on November 29-December 2.