The Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's volleyball team posted another outstanding season in 2001 as the Lady Cougars finished the year with a 39-8 overall record, became the first team in conference history to claim at least a share of four straight conference titles, and was one win of away from advancing to the NAIA National Tournament.
The season started out well for MVNC as the Lady Cougars won their first 11 matches in straight games that included sweeping through the Messiah (Pa.) College Invitational. Then, the team suffered its first loss of the season as MVNC fell in five games to Taylor (Ind.) University, ranked 17th in the NAIA poll at the time, in the championship match of the Lady Cougars' own Pizza Hut Invitational.
The following match for MVNC was the American Mideast Conference opener for the team as the Lady Cougars looked to defend their conference title. However, MVNC fell at Malone College, who received votes in the NAIA poll that week, in four games to start conference play with an 0-1 record for the first time since the 1986 season.
The Lady Cougars rebounded to rattle off six straight conference wins before dropping a hard-fought five-game loss to Daemen (N.Y.) College as the team's streak of three straight conference titles seemed to be in serious jeopardy.
However, MVNC responded by running off six straight victories including a home win over Malone in four games as the Lady Cougars improved to 24-3 overall and 11-2 in the AMC.
Following a loss at Madonna (Mich.) University, ranked 22nd in the NAIA at the time, MVNC strung together nine more wins in a row to improve to 33-4 overall. The Lady Cougars also got back into contention in the AMC title hunt as their conference record improved to 20-2 as one of the wins came against then 12th-ranked and conference-leading Walsh University.
At this point, MVNC took a break from its conference title chase to participate in the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament for the eleventh straight year. The Lady Cougars went 2-2 in pool play with their losses coming to defending NCCAA champion Indiana Wesleyan University and eventual runner-up Union (Tenn.) University.
Following the NCCAA National Tournament, MVNC switched its focus back to attaining an unprecedented fourth straight conference crown and its sixth conference title overall. It all came down to the team's final AMC match at Walsh, which the Lady Cougars won in four games to claim a share of the conference title as the team won its final 15 AMC matches to accomplish the feat.
The victory over Walsh also earned MVNC the right to host the AMC and NAIA Region IX Tournaments. The top-seeded Lady Cougars advanced to the championship match of the AMC Tournament with wins over Urbana University and Daemen to set up another match with Walsh. The Lady Cavaliers prevailed this time, but MVNC had already earned a berth in the NAIA Region IX Tournament.
In the four-team NAIA Region IX Tournament, the Lady Cougars squared off with Malone in the semifinals. With MVNC clicking on all cylinders, the Lady Cougars swept the Lady Pioneers in three games to advance to the regional championship match for the third straight year.
The championship match pitted MVNC against Walsh once again, and the Lady Cavaliers evened the season series at two wins apiece as they knocked off the Lady Cougars in four games to end MVNC's season with a 39-8 record.
"Each player should feel a sense of satisfaction for their contributions to the success and experience of this year's team," said MVNC head coach Paul Swanson. "They each accomplished a lot and I believe that it was a rewarding personal experience for each player."
"To win another conference championship is amazing," Swanson added. "After being 6-2 (in the conference) at one point and then winning our remaining 15 conference matches, that was very impressive."
Individually, the team was led by the winningest senior class in school history with a 175-32 four-year record for a program-best .845 winning percentage. The four seniors (Darcee Hoberg, Amanda Triplett, Andrea Rudd, and Deanna Stayman) also led the team to four straight conference titles.
Hoberg, an outside hitter, led the Lady Cougars with 500 kills and 492 digs. She also compiled 58 blocks and 69 aces. For her career, Hoberg ranks third in career kills (1,875) and aces (189) and fourth in career digs (1,910).
Triplett, another outside hitter, led MVNC with a .337 attack percentage in addition to recording 474 kills, 70 blocks, 50 aces, and 468 digs. She finished her career ranked second in kills (1,881), sixth in digs (1,520), and seventh in aces (168).
Rudd, a setter, handed out a team-high 1,211 assists in 2001 as she became the program's career leader with 4,286 assists over the past four seasons. She also added 107 kills, 81 blocks, 22 aces, and 199 digs.
Stayman, a defensive specialist, led the Lady Cougars with a school-record 88 aces as she finished her career ranked ninth in that category with 167. She also posted 453 digs to finish ninth on the all-time list with 1,451.
Junior middle hitter Katie Zipf had her best season so far as she registered 301 kills, 118 blocks, and 52 assists. Sophomore middle hitters Carrie McClelland (374 kills and 168 blocks), Chelsea Knight (238 kills and 80 blocks), and Jessica Harding (139 kills and 72 blocks) also contributed significantly to the team's success.
Sophomore Jeni Vanderhoof, an outside hitter, played in 150 of the team's 158 games and posted 287 digs and 57 aces. Meanwhile, freshman setter Katey Percival distributed 588 assists to go along with 201 digs in her first collegiate season.
"Individually, the improvement of players like Katie (Zipf) and Jeni (Vanderhoof) were noteworthy to our success," said Swanson. "The skill of our two setters (Rudd and Percival) was appreciated, and the excellence of Deanna (Stayman)'s back row play was essential. Finally, the all-around play of Darcee (Hoberg) and Amanda (Triplett) was awesome. I am extremely pleased with this team's ability to stay together and support each other. Their ability to perform was also outstanding."
Swanson will have to work hard in the off-season to replace the talented senior class that will graduate in May. However, a solid group of returning players is ready to continue the winning tradition of MVNC women's volleyball.