NewsLady Cougars Ready to Attack New Volleyball Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University women's volleyball team will look to add another winning chapter to the program's history as the Lady Cougars prepare to get the 2003 season under way.
MVNU returns nine letterwinners and five starters from last year's squad that posted a 36-13 overall record, finished second in the American Mideast Conference South Division with a 12-4 mark, advanced to the semifinals of the NAIA Region IX Tournament, and finished as the National Christian College Athletic Association national runner-up for the first time.
Guiding the Lady Cougars into the new season will be head coach Paul Swanson, who enters his 20th season at the helm. Swanson, who is among the all-time winningest coaches in NAIA history, has compiled a 652-228 record at MVNU and led the program to six conference titles.
"I am really excited about the potential that this year's team has," said Swanson. "Our ball control and serve receiving have improved since last year, and everyone on our team can contribute when called upon. We have an outstanding group of seniors who have a desire to compete and will provide good leadership. Our returning players are all experienced, and our incoming freshmen are all very talented. This team really has a competitive spirit, and it is fun watching them improve each day."
Junior setter Katey Percival returns to run the Lady Cougars' attack after an outstanding season in 2002. Percival was named to the AMC South Division First Team, the NCCAA East Region Team, the NAIA Region IX First Team, and the NCCAA All-American Second Team after handing out 1,887 assists - the second-highest single-season total in school history. Junior Jessica Adams will again serve as a back-up for Percival.
Three returning players and one talented newcomer will each vie for playing time at the middle hitter position. Senior Carrie Mason led the team with 510 kills last year while being named to the AMC South Division Second Team, while senior Chelsea Knight was the team leader with 198 total blocks as she was an NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention pick. Sophomore Jenny Weaver was named to the AMC South Division All-Freshmen Team after registering 200 kills and 346 digs, and freshman Dawn Lower comes to MVNU after being a former Conference Player of the Year at Mason High School.
The Lady Cougars should also have plenty of firepower at the outside hitter position with four returning players and two newcomers providing plenty of depth there. Sophomore Amanda Stevens was named to the AMC South Division All-Freshmen Team and was an AMC South Division Honorable Mention pick after leading MVNU with 540 digs to go with 281 kills and 46 aces. Senior Jessica Harding had a breakout season with 449 kills to earn NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention honors, while senior Jeni Vanderhoof and junior Bethany Anderson also return to compete for playing time. Freshmen Katie Ickes and Katie Vipperman will also see action in their first collegiate season. Ickes was an All-Ohio Second Team selection as a senior at Smithville High School, while Vipperman was an All-Conference First Team pick at River View High School.
Vanderhoof and Vipperman should each see significant time as the team's libero, while Adams and Anderson will also compete for playing time in the back row. Vanderhoof registered 424 digs as the team's primary libero a year ago.
The Lady Cougars will get the 2003 season under way on Thursday, August 28, when the team plays a tri-match at Trinity Christian (Ill.) College beginning with a 5:00 p.m. match against Bethel (Ind.) College and a 7:00 p.m. match against the host Trolls.
MVNU will also take part in two invitational tournaments during the regular season starting with the Cornerstone (Mich.) University Classic on August 29-30 where the team will play the host Golden Eagles, Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) University, Aquinas (Mich.) College, and Taylor (Ind.) University, ranked 19th in the NAIA preseason poll. The Lady Cougars will also travel to the King (Tenn.) College Challenge on September 26-27 to take on Southern Wesleyan (S.C.) University, Cumberland (Ky.) College, and the host Tornadoes, who received votes in the NAIA preseason poll.
MVNU will also look to challenge for the AMC South Division title once again as the Lady Cougars saw their four-year run as conference champions come to an end last year. The team will play home and away matches against Malone College, Cedarville University, Ohio Dominican University, Shawnee State University, Urbana University, Tiffin University, the University of Rio Grande, and Walsh University, the defending conference and region champion who is ranked 12th in the NAIA preseason poll.
In addition, MVNU will play non-conference matches against Houghton (N.Y.) College, who received votes in the NAIA preseason poll, Daemen (N.Y.) College, the defending AMC North Division champion, Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, Notre Dame College, Mountain State (W.Va.) University, Saint Vincent (Pa.) College, and the University of Charleston (W.Va.), an NCAA Division II team.
The Lady Cougars will also look to qualify for the NCCAA National Tournament for the thirteenth straight year after finishing as the national runner-up in 2002. MVNU will host Malone and Geneva (Pa.) College in NCCAA East Region matches on Thursday, October 16, to determine who will receive the region's automatic berth into the NCCAA National Tournament at Indiana Wesleyan University on October 30-31.
"We are excited about getting this season under way," said Swanson. "The team dynamics are excellent and the players are working hard to be prepared for our tough schedule."