NewsMVNU Wraps up Another Successful Volleyball Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University women's volleyball team continued its winning tradition in 2002 as the Lady Cougars posted an overall record of 36-13 and finished second at the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament.
The season started out well for MVNU as the team won 14 of its first 16 matches. During that span, the Lady Cougars finished second at the Earlham (Ind.) College Invitational and in their own Pizza Hut Invitational.
After a third-place finish at the Indiana Wesleyan University Invitational, the team turned its attention towards the American Mideast Conference South Division race. Over the next nine matches, MVNU went 7-2 to improve to 23-6 overall. During that span, one of the team's losses came at home to Shawnee State University as the Lady Cougars' conference home-winning streak came to an end at 78 matches - a streak that began during the 1991 season.
MVNU took a break from its regular-season schedule to play in the NCCAA East Region Tournament. The Lady Cougars swept both Geneva (Pa.) College and host Malone College to claim the NCCAA East Region title and earn an automatic berth in the NCCAA National Tournament.
The team went 2-3 over its next five matches as its record moved to 28-9 overall. However, MVNU had one of its best performances of the season during that span in a loss to Walsh University, ranked 10th in the NAIA at the time, as the Lady Cougars nearly knocked off the Lady Cavaliers in a close, hard-fought match.
At that point, the team made its 12th straight trip to the NCCAA National Tournament. Despite being seeded seventh in the 10-team event, MVNU won its pool with a 3-1 record to advance to the semifinals. In the semifinals, the Lady Cougars knocked off The Master's (Calif.) College in four games as the team reached the national championship match for the first time in the program's history. Despite losing to top-seeded and defending national champion Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University in the title match, MVNU had earned a lot of respect with its runner-up finish.
The Lady Cougars closed out the regular season with two more conference wins as the team finished American Mideast Conference South Division play with a 12-4 record to finish second behind Walsh.
MVNU advanced to the AMC Tournament and defeated Cedarville University in the quarterfinals before falling to AMC North Division champion Daemen (N.Y.) College in the semifinals. Then, the Lady Cougars swept Houghton (N.Y.) College to take third place in the tournament.
With that victory, MVNU earned its ninth straight trip to the NAIA Region IX Tournament. The Lady Cougars fell in the semifinals to eventual region champion Walsh as the team finished its season with a 36-13 overall record that marked the tenth straight year in which the program had won at least 35 matches.
"I am very proud of the perseverance that this team showed," said MVNU head coach Paul Swanson of his squad that had only two returning starters from the previous year. "We suffered some unusual losses, but the players showed a real hunger to improve. From start to finish, this was one of the most improved teams we have had at MVNU."
"I was also very pleased with the personal and spiritual growth that each player exhibited," Swanson added. "We were a very close and encouraging team."
Individually, several players had outstanding seasons for the Lady Cougars. Senior middle hitter Katie Zipf wrapped up her four-year career with a career-high 488 kills, 150 blocks, 93 assists, 79 aces, and 299 digs. She also became the 15th player in school history to record 1,000 career kills.
"Katie finished her solid career with an outstanding senior season," said Swanson. "She has been a joy to coach over the past four years, and she will be difficult to replace."
Junior middle hitter Carrie McClelland led the team with 510 kills to go with 191 blocks, 56 aces, and 253 digs. She also moved into seventh place on MVNU's career kills list with 1,265. Junior outside hitter Jessica Harding added 449 kills, 103 blocks, and 88 digs. Junior middle hitter Chelsea Knight led the team with 198 blocks to go with 233 kills, 37 aces, and 86 digs, while junior libero Jeni Vanderhoof registered 424 digs, 32 aces, and 54 kills.
Sophomore setter Katey Percival had a breakout season as she posted the second-highest single-season assist total in school history with 1,887 assists. She also added 120 kills, 80 blocks, 38 aces, and 421 digs. Sophomore back row specialists Jessica Adams and Megan Daugherty added 168 and 118 digs respectively, while sophomore outside hitters Amber Thorne and Bethany Anderson finished with 21 and 14 kills respectively.
Freshmen outside hitters Amanda Stevens and Jenny Weaver each made an impact in their first collegiate seasons. Stevens led the team with 540 digs to go with 281 kills, 46 aces, and 75 blocks, while Weaver finished with 200 kills, 67 blocks, 37 aces, and 346 digs.
With only one player graduating, the future looks bright for the Lady Cougars. "We have a solid group of returning players who will be working hard this off-season," said Swanson.