The 2000 season marked the 25th year of competition for the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's volleyball program, and the Lady Cougars showed just how far they have come by posting a 38-12 overall record and finishing one win away from advancing to the NAIA National Tournament.
Over the past 25 seasons, MVNC has established itself as one of the premier small college programs in the Midwest. The Lady Cougars have posted a 686-304 overall record (.693 winning percentage) during the program's history, and the team has also won five conference championships in the past seven years alone.
MVNC began the 2000 season by playing its first seven matches in the Chicago area. The Lady Cougars opened the season by sweeping the University of Saint Francis (Ill.), ranked #21 in the NAIA preseason poll, in three games. Following a loss at Saint Xavier (Ill.) University, who went on to play in the NAIA National Tournament, MVNC closed the trip with five straight victories.
The Lady Cougars continued to play well as the team improved to 10-1 with wins over Denison University, Central State University, Shawnee State University, and Ursuline College. After a five-game loss at NCAA Division II Ashland University, MVNC ran off six consecutive wins to improve to 16-2. During this span, the Lady Cougars also moved up to #20 in the NAIA national poll - the highest ranking ever in the program's history.
After dropping two matches at the Wazie Invitational to Marian (Ind.) College and King (Tenn.) College, ranked #24 in the NAIA national poll, MVNC posted four straight victories to improve to 20-4. The biggest win during that stretch was a five-game victory at Taylor (Ind.) University, who was ranked #15 in the NAIA at the time.
Over the next eight matches, the Lady Cougars hit a rough spot as the team went 3-5 to move to 23-9 overall. However, the losses all came to teams ranked or receiving votes in their respective national polls. MVNC fell to Taylor (NAIA #23), Indiana Wesleyan University (NAIA #15), the University of Findlay (NCAA Division II receiving votes), and twice to Malone College (NAIA receiving votes).
The team regained its composure, though, as the Lady Cougars finished strong down the stretch. Over MVNC's final 18 matches, the team posted a 15-3 record to finish at 38-12 overall. Two of the losses came at the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament where the Lady Cougars fell to defending champion Christian Heritage (Calif.) College and eventual champion Indiana Wesleyan. The team's other loss came in the championship match of the NAIA Region IX Tournament to Houghton (N.Y.) College, who advanced on to the NAIA National Tournament.
"It was a disappointing ending to an excellent season," said head coach Paul Swanson of the team's loss to Houghton. "We really thought that we were ready for the regional final. We had played a tough schedule, we were playing well down the stretch, and we were eager to earn a trip to the national tournament. However, we ran into a very good team that played a great match."
One of the highlights of the season was the team claiming a share of its third straight American Mideast Conference regular-season title by posting a 13-1 conference record with the lone loss coming to Malone. MVNC also avenged that loss in the AMC Tournament as the Lady Cougars won all three of their matches including the championship match against Malone.
Another highlight for MVNC was earning the program's eleventh consecutive berth in the NCCAA National Tournament. As the sixth seed in the 10-team tournament, the Lady Cougars advanced to the semifinals before falling to Indiana Wesleyan, the eventual champion.
MVNC also continued to play well at home as the Lady Cougars posted an 11-2 mark in the friendly confines of the Physical Education Center. The team has now won 69 consecutive home conference matches dating back to the 1991 season, and MVNC has posted a 128-8 record at home over the past ten years.
Individually, seniors Scarlett Habrun, Amy Shearrow, and Jai Holland wrapped up their stellar careers by posting solid seasons. Habrun, a middle hitter, was named to the AMC Second Team after tallying 34 aces, 330 digs, 172 blocks, and 408 kills. She finished her career ranked fourth on MVNC's all-time blocks list with 591 and thirteenth on the all-time kills list with 1,009.
Shearrow, an outside hitter, recorded 52 aces, 105 assists, and 387 digs. She became the program's all-time leader in serving percentage at 98.2 percent, and she ranks sixth in career digs with 1,468. She also ranks fourth in career serve attempts (2,436) and eighth in serve reception attempts (1,695).
Holland, an outside hitter, saw action in 30 games in her final season and posted seven assists, eight aces, 11 kills, and 63 digs.
"Our seniors did a great job for us this year," said Swanson. "Scarlett had a very productive senior year. Amy was a force in the back row for us, and Jai added such a positive dimension to our team. All three have distinguished themselves as volleyball players and as people to all who watch MVNC volleyball. We are proud of them and we will miss them."
The four juniors on the Lady Cougars' roster all had outstanding seasons. Darcee Hoberg, an outside hitter, was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, the NAIA Region IX First Team, and the NCCAA All-American First Team after leading the team with 655 digs and 56 aces. She also added 75 blocks and 537 kills. For her career, Hoberg moved into sixth place in kills (1,375) and seventh place in digs (1,418).
Amanda Schumm, another outside hitter, was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, the NAIA Region IX First Team, and the NCCAA All-American Second Team after leading MVNC with 586 kills and 56 aces. She also contributed 47 assists, 62 blocks, and 606 digs. For her career, Schumm moved into third place in kills (1,407) and thirteenth place in digs (1,052).
Andrea Rudd, a setter, was named to the AMC First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, the NAIA Region IX Second Team, and the NCCAA All-American Second Team after setting a new school record with 1,970 assists. She also compiled 35 aces, 105 blocks, 123 kills, and 436 digs. For her career, Rudd moved into fifth place on MVNC's all-time assists list with 3,075.
Deanna Stayman, an outside hitter, put her name into the Lady Cougars' record book as she set a single-season school mark with 913 serve attempts. She also posted 35 assists, 45 aces, and 436 digs. Stayman needs just two more digs to become the fifteenth player in school history to reach 1,000 digs for her career.
Sophomore Katie Zipf, a middle hitter, posted 74 blocks and 129 kills, while Mary Porter, a sophomore outside hitter, served up 13 aces to go along with 21 kills and 30 digs.
Freshman middle hitter Carrie McClelland also received accolades for her performance in her first collegiate season. She was named to the AMC All-Freshmen Team after compiling a team-high 174 blocks, 102 digs, and 381 kills.
Jessica Harding and Chelsea Knight, two other freshmen middle hitters, also saw plenty of action during the season. Harding recorded 47 assists, 57 blocks, and 139 kills, while Knight finished with 34 blocks and 82 kills. Freshman outside hitter Jeni Vanderhoof also contributed 22 aces, 79 kills, and 153 digs.
With a solid core of returning players led by this year's junior class, the future looks bright for the MVNC volleyball program as the Lady Cougars continue to build on their winning tradition.