NewsLady Cougars Continue Winning Volleyball Tradition
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University women's volleyball team continued its winning ways in 2003 as the Lady Cougars posted a 36-10 overall record and advanced to both the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament and the NAIA Region IX Tournament.
The season started out well for MVNU as the team went 11-1 out of the gate. During that stretch, the Lady Cougars finished second out of 11 teams at the Cornerstone (Mich.) University Invitational. MVNU's only loss came in four games to Taylor (Ind.) University, ranked 19th in the NAIA preseason poll.
Following a five-game loss to Cedarville University, the Lady Cougars won eight of their next nine matches to improve to 19-3. The team won the King (Tenn.) College Invitational as they avenged a five-game pool-play loss to the host Lady Tornadoes by sweeping them in the championship match.
MVNU won nine of its next 12 matches to improve its record to 28-6. Two of the Lady Cougars' losses came at the hands of Walsh University, the eventual American Mideast Conference South Division and NAIA Region IX Tournament champion who finished the year ranked 14th in the NAIA national poll. The other loss was to Cedarville, the AMC South Division runner-up.
Next up for MVNU was the NCCAA National Tournament as the Lady Cougars earned their thirteenth straight berth as a result of winning their twelfth NCCAA East Region title. MVNU, the fifth-seed in the 10-team tournament, went 2-2 in pool play and just missed making the semifinals due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker to Hope International (Calif.) University.
MVNU then closed out the regular season by sweeping Shawnee State University and Urbana University to improve to 32-8. The Lady Cougars also finished third in the highly competitive AMC South Division with a 12-4 record.
In the AMC Tournament, MVNU swept Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College and Seton Hill (Pa.) University before falling to Walsh in the semifinals. The Lady Cougars rebounded to defeat Malone College in four games to claim third place.
With the win over Malone, MVNU advanced to the NAIA Region IX Tournament for the tenth straight year. After sweeping the University of Michigan-Dearborn, the Lady Cougars fell in five games to host Daemen (N.Y.) College as the team saw its season come to an end with a 36-10 overall record.
"Overall, we had a great season," said MVNU head coach Paul Swanson, who notched his 700th career win against Roberts Wesleyan on November 14. "We have lots of reasons to feel good about the way we represented our Lord, our institution, and our team. The players gave a great effort throughout the season and accomplished much. We did not accomplish all that we wanted to, and we did not play as consistent as we needed to in some big matches. However, I am proud of the intensity, effort, and cohesion we showed while playing."
"I look at this as a season of much growth," Swanson added. "We grew together spiritually in many ways. To see this growth in spiritual maturity and knowledge in many of the players is very encouraging. We grew as individuals in many ways, too. Our team dynamics were great, and the individual relationships create a great memory. We also grew as players a great deal. The noticeable individual improvement in every player is a very positive thing."
Five seniors wrapped up their playing careers after compiling a 149-43 record (.776 winning percentage) over the past four years. Carrie Mason, Jessica Harding, Chelsea Knight, Jeni Vanderhoof, and Jessica Adams combined to record 3,939 kills, 1,475 blocks, 3,153 digs, and 414 aces in their careers.
Mason, a middle hitter, posted 471 kills, 110 blocks, 251 digs, and a team-high 52 aces in her final season as she finished her career ranked second in school history in total blocks (643) and fifth in kills (1,736). Harding, an outside hitter, added 434 kills and 93 total blocks, and she ranks eleventh on the school's career kills list with 1,161.
Knight, a middle hitter, contributed 236 kills, 157 total blocks, and 48 aces. She closed out her career ranked eighth in school history with 479 total blocks. Vanderhoof, a libero, added 55 kills and a team-high 538 digs as she finished her career ranked tenth in school history with 1,402 digs. She also recorded 934 serve reception attempts in 2003 - the second-highest total in school history - to finish third in that career category with 2,545 serve reception attempts. Adams, a defensive specialist, also contributed 40 aces and 367 digs in her final season.
Junior setter Katey Percival was among the AMC leaders in assists with 1,784 as she moved within 27 assists of the Lady Cougars' career record in that category. She also posted 119 kills, 79 blocks, 44 aces, and 407 digs. Junior outside hitter Bethany Anderson added 137 digs and 12 aces.
Sophomore outside hitter Amanda Stevens led MVNU with 477 kills to go with 37 aces and 532 digs, while sophomore middle hitter Jenny Weaver posted a team-best 181 blocks along with 294 kills, 29 aces, and 185 digs.
Freshmen middle hitters Dawn Lower and Katie Ickes smashed 62 and 57 kills respectively with Lower added 24 blocks. Freshman outside hitter Katie Vipperman also contributed 11 aces and 48 digs.
"This team had great senior leadership, and the seniors will no doubt be missed," said Swanson. "Our juniors and sophomores were eager competitors who contributed a great deal. Our freshmen were quality people who made important contributions to our team on and off the court."
Swanson will be busy in the off-season as he looks to fill the five spots vacated by the senior class, but with an experienced group of players returning the winning tradition of Lady Cougar volleyball should continue in 2004.