NewsYoung MVNU Volleyball Team Finishes Successful Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Coming into the 2004 season, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s volleyball team knew that its inexperience was going to play a role in the team’s success as the Lady Cougars returned just five players from the previous season.
However, despite that inexperience and a schedule that included 20 matches against teams that were ranked or received votes in their respective national polls during the season, MVNU posted an impressive 34-14 overall record and finished one win away from the NAIA National Tournament.
The Lady Cougars won their first four matches to start the season before dropping three straight matches to nationally ranked teams - Lubbock Christian (Texas) University (17th in the NAIA), Lee (Tenn.) University (2nd in the NAIA), and Ashland University, an NCAA Division II team that finished the year ranked 25th.
MVNU rebounded by winning its next seven matches to improve to 11-3. The Lady Cougars captured the Houghton (N.Y.) College Tournament title during that span in addition to posting wins over Muskingum College, Otterbein College, and Tiffin University.
After a pair of losses in five games each to Malone College and Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, MVNU rattled off three more wins before losing to Cedarville University, who was ranked 19th in the NAIA at the time, as the team’s record stood at 14-6.
Next up for the Lady Cougars was the Best of the Best Tournament in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the team played four matches with three of the teams being ranked in the NAIA national poll at some point during the season. MVNU went 2-2 to finish fifth with wins over Lindenwood (Mo.) University and Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University.
The Lady Cougars returned to the thick of the American Mideast Conference South Division race with nine straight conference matches. The team went 7-2 during that span to improve to 23-10 with the highlights being a win in four games at defending champion Walsh University to snap their 38-match AMC South Division winning streak and a sweep of Malone College at home.
Following a victory over Geneva (Pa.) College that gave MVNU the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region title, the Lady Cougars closed out the regular season by winning three of their final four matches as their record improved to 27-11.
MVNU traveled to West Palm Beach, Florida, for the NCCAA National Tournament as the team made its fourteenth straight appearance in the event. The Lady Cougars went 2-2 in pool play with one of the wins coming against Cedarville, who was 16th in the NAIA at the time.
At that point, MVNU turned its attention to the AMC Tournament, which the Lady Cougars entered as the third seed from the AMC South Division. MVNU won four straight matches to claim the AMC Tournament title as the Lady Cougars defeated Roberts Wesleyan, Ohio Dominican University, Cedarville, who had dropped to 18th in the NAIA, and 25th-ranked Walsh.
By winning the AMC Tournament, MVNU advanced to the NAIA Region IX Tournament for the eleventh straight season. The Lady Cougars out-lasted Daemen (N.Y.) College in the semifinals to advance to the region championship match for the fourth time in school history. MVNU fell in the title match in four games to Cedarville as the Lady Cougars season came to an end with a 34-14 overall record.
"At the start of the season, there was definitely an element of the unknown,” said MVNU head coach Paul Swanson, who notched his 700th win in 22 seasons with the Lady Cougars on September 17 versus Daemen. "We had six new players, different leaders, different roles, diverse personalities, but good skills and a hunger to play volleyball.”
"At the end of the season, I marvel at the progress that we made as a team, as individual players, and as people,” Swanson continued. "This was a team that started slow and finished strong. The players’ commitment to skill improvement, to each other, to our shared faith, and to the institution really sticks out in my mind.”
Outside hitter Bethany Anderson, the Lady Cougars’ only senior, closed out her four-year career with 15 aces, 18 assists, and 236 digs as she played in 115 games. "When you think of Bethany, you think quality,” said Swanson. "She is a quality athlete, who improved each year. She is a quality player, who helped us win many matches. She is a quality teammate, who has been a super example no matter what role she has been asked to fill. She is a quality Christian young woman, who has made a lasting impression on me and every one of her teammates. We will definitely miss her.”
Junior outside hitter Amanda Stevens led the team with 610 kills and 717 digs, which ranked fourth and second in school history for single-season totals in their respective categories. She also set a new school record with a 95.8 percent serve reception percentage, and she added 71 kills, 29 assists, and 105 total blocks. For her career, Stevens now ranks fifth in school history in digs (1,789), eighth in kills (1,368), and tenth in aces (154).
Junior middle hitter Jenny Weaver posted an outstanding season with 228 total blocks, which ranked sixth in school history for a single season. She also registered 424 kills, 19 assists, 28 aces, 435 digs, and a team-best 97.9 serving percentage. Weaver now ranks ninth all-time on MVNU’s career blocks list with 476.
Freshman setter Allison Klusmann stepped right into a starting role and recorded 1,914 assists - the second-highest single-season total in school history trailing only the 1,970 assists registered by Andrea Rudd in 2000. Klusmann also finished with 93 kills, 79 blocks, 33 aces, and 407 digs.
Freshman middle hitter Shena Beheler led the team with 229 total blocks and a .328 attack percentage to go along with 581 kills, 63 aces, and 203 digs. She had the fifth-highest single-season block total and the sixth-highest single-season kill total for the Lady Cougars.
Sophomore outside hitter Katie Ickes moved into a starting role this season for MVNU and contributed 378 kills, 103 blocks, 114 digs, and 11 aces. Freshman middle hitter Rachael Stevens also added 321 kills, 76 blocks, 76 assists, and 106 digs. Freshman defensive specialist Brittany Dixon led the team with 793 serve attempts and 753 serve reception attempts, and she also contributed 52 aces and 477 digs. Meanwhile, freshman outside hitter Tiffany Milburn and sophomore outside hitter Katie Vipperman posted 290 digs and 148 digs respectively. Freshman setter Ashlee Brandt also tallied 23 assists, 16 digs, and two aces.
"Each player contributed in many ways to our great experience together this year,” said Swanson. "Great people showed great progress, which lead to a great season.”