With a successful 25-year history serving as a strong foundation, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's volleyball team will look to add to its winning tradition when the 2001 season gets under way at 7:00 p.m. on August 30 at Shepherd (W.V.) College.
The Lady Cougars return nine letterwinners and four starters from last year's squad that posted a 38-12 overall record, won its third straight American Mideast Conference title, and finished as the NAIA Region IX runner-up for the second year in a row. Add to that a solid recruiting class and the combination could produce another winning chapter for the MVNC volleyball annals.
"We have the potential to be a very competitive and successful team," said MVNC head coach Paul Swanson. "However, the key to reaching that potential will be each player's individual improvement. We have a strong senior class, and they will have to lead the way for the younger players."
Swanson, who is entering his 18th season at the helm of the Lady Cougars, has posted an incredible 577-207 overall record (.736) during his time at MVNC. He has led the team to five conference titles, nine National Christian College Athletic Association district or region titles, and 10 straight trips to the NCCAA National Tournament. The Lady Cougars have also won 30-plus matches in each of the past eight years.
MVNC should have plenty of firepower at the outside hitter position as seniors Darcee Hoberg and Amanda Triplett return to pound away at their opponents. Both players were named to the AMC and NAIA Region IX First Teams and were also NCCAA All-Americans. They have also compiled nearly 2,800 career kills between them.
Joining Hoberg and Triplett at the outside hitter position will be sophomore Jeni Vanderhoof and freshmen Megan Daugherty and Bethany Anderson. Vanderhoof saw action in 67 games as a freshman and compiled 79 kills, 22 aces, and 153 digs. Daugherty led Madison High School to back-to-back conference and district titles while earning All-Conference and All-District honors, and Anderson was a two-year varsity performer at Trinity High School.
Competition for playing time at the middle hitter position will be hotly contested with five players vying for a spot. Sophomore Carrie McClelland highlights the group as a returning starter who earned AMC All-Freshmen Team honors after compiling 381 kills and a team-high 174 total blocks a year ago. Junior Katie Zipf has shown steady improvement and is coming off a solid season, while sophomores Chelsea Knight and Jessica Harding each saw plenty of action a year ago. Freshman Amber Thorne, an All-Conference and All-District performer at Salem High School, rounds out the list of middle hitters.
Two talented setters will handle the chore of distributing the ball to the powerful MVNC hitters. Senior Andrea Rudd is coming off an outstanding season in which she set a new school record with 1,970 assists. She was named to the AMC First Team, the NAIA Region IX Second Team, and the NCCAA All-American Second Team. She will be backed up by freshman Katey Percival, an Honorable Mention All-Ohioan who led Amherst Steele High School to a 24-2 record and conference, sectional, and district titles in 2000.
Senior Deanna Stayman will anchor the Lady Cougars' defense at the backrow specialist position. Stayman set a school record with 913 serve attempts in 2000, and she also recorded 436 digs. Vanderhoof, Daugherty, and Anderson will also see time at this spot.
MVNC, the three-time defending conference champions, will look for an unprecedented fourth straight title as the Lady Cougars compete in the 20-team AMC race. Every conference match will be important for MVNC with an unbalanced format in which the Lady Cougars play every team once and four teams (Malone College, Walsh University, Ohio Dominican College, and Tiffin University) twice. This year's conference slate will also include newcomers, Houghton (N.Y.) College, the 2000 NAIA Region IX champions, Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, Carlow (Pa.) College, Daemen (N.Y.) College, and Ursuline College.
In addition to its conference schedule, MVNC will face several ranked opponents throughout the regular season. The Lady Cougars are slated for non-conference matches at the College of Mount St. Joseph (#10 in the NCAA Division III preseason poll) and Madonna (Mich.) University (#13 in the NAIA preseason poll). MVNC will also host Taylor (Ind.) University (#23 in the NAIA preseason poll) as one of the five teams at the highly competitive Pizza Hut Invitational. The other teams are Marian (Ind.) College, the University of St. Francis (Ill.), St. Xavier (Ill.) University, and Roberts Wesleyan.
Besides these matches, the Lady Cougars will compete in the eight-team Messiah (Pa.) College Invitational over Labor Day weekend after opening the season at Shepherd, an NCAA Division II team that went 34-9 in 2000. MVNC will also face Capital University, Denison University, and Kenyon College in non-conference matches.
With a challenging schedule in front of them, Swanson will look to prepare the Lady Cougars for a postseason run that will hopefully include a berth in the NCCAA National Tournament, the NAIA Region IX Tournament, and ultimately, the program's first-ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament in West Palm Beach, Florida.