NewsLady Cougars Post Another Successful Volleyball Campaign
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s volleyball team added another successful chapter into the program’s impressive record book as the Lady Cougars posted a 42-12 overall record in 2005 and once again finished just one win away from advancing to the NAIA National Tournament as the team topped the 40-win mark for the seventh time in the program’s history.
MVNU got off to a great start as the Lady Cougars rattled off 16 straight wins to open the season. During that span, the team earned a share of the University of Michigan-Dearborn Tournament title and won the Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College Tournament.
The Lady Cougars dropped two of their next three matches with the losses coming to the College of Wooster (8-1 at the time) and unbeaten Cedarville University (ranked 18th in the NAIA at the time) in four and five games respectively. Then, the team rebounded to post five straight wins including going 4-0 at its own Papa John’s Invitational with a sweep of Bethel (Ind.) College (13-1 at the time) in the championship match to improve to 22-2.
MVNU went 13-7 over the remainder of the regular season as the team’s record stood at 35-9 entering postseason play. Six of the seven losses came to teams that were ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA national poll at some point in the season. The Lady Cougars also finished tied for second in the American Mideast Conference South Division standings with an 11-5 mark.
After winning the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region title for the fourteenth time, MVNU made its fifteenth straight trip to the NCCAA National Tournament. The Lady Cougars went 3-1 in pool play at the 10-team event, but MVNU failed to advance due to losing a single tiebreaker game to Trinity International (Ill.) University, who received votes in the NAIA poll.
Next, the Lady Cougars turned their attention to the AMC Tournament. After posting wins over Malone College and Urbana University, MVNU fell to Saint Vincent (Pa.) College, who received votes in the NAIA poll, in the semifinals.
However, by advancing to the semifinals of the AMC Tournament, MVNU earned a spot in the six-team NAIA Region IX Tournament. The Lady Cougars swept the University of Maine-Machias in three games in the quarterfinals and then gained a measure of revenge with a four-game victory over host Saint Vincent in the semifinals. Then, after winning the first two games in the championship match against top-seeded and 17th-ranked Cedarville, MVNU lost the final three games including 15-13 in the fifth game to finish as the region runner-up for the fifth time in the past seven years. It was the fourth time the Lady Cougars had lost to the Yellow Jackets during the season and the third time it came down to a 15-13 score in the fifth and deciding game.
"We definitely had an up and down year,” said MVNU head coach Paul Swanson, who became the NAIA’s active leader in career wins and now has 779. "We had some struggles and tough losses, but we also had many growth periods and excellent play. We closed out the season in style with two excellent matches playing our best.”
"I am very appreciative of our players’ effort, attitudes, and support of each other,” added Swanson. "I love the fact that our team has a strong desire to make Christ central to everything we do.”
Individually, seniors Amanda Stevens and Jenny Dunster wrapped up their stellar careers with an excellent final year. Stevens, an outside hitter, pounded 636 kills and led the team with 730 digs. She finished her career as the program’s all-time leader in digs (2,519), aces (214), and serve reception attempts (2,788). She also ranks second in career kills (2,004), serve attempts (2,765), and serve reception percentage (.944).
Dunster, a middle hitter, registered 557 kills, 204 blocks, 47 aces, and 622 digs, and she led the team with a school-record 969 serve attempts. For her career, she ranks first in school history in serve attempts (3,043), second in blocks (680), third in serving percentage (.972), and seventh in both kills (1,475) and digs (1,588).
"It is difficult to put into words what Amanda and Jenny have meant to all of us over the past four years,” said Swanson. "They are both very talented, complete players and outstanding people whose lives have impacted everyone on our team. It will be hard to replace their contributions on and off the court.”
Sophomore middle hitter Shena Beheler had an outstanding season as she led the Lady Cougars in kills (711) and blocks (266), which ranked as the third and second highest single-season totals in school history in their respective categories. She also posted 46 aces and 435 digs. Despite having only played two seasons, she has already moved into tenth place in career kills (1,292) and ninth place in career blocks (495) on the school’s all-time lists.
Sophomore setter Allison Klusmann also put her name in the record books in 2005 as she handed out 2,132 assists - the highest single-season mark in the program’s history. She also compiled 125 kills, 57 blocks, 45 aces, and 320 digs. For her career, she already ranks fourth in school history with 4,046 assists and is just 240 assists away from tying the school’s career record of 4,286.
Junior outside hitter Katie Ickes had a breakout season for MVNU as she hammered a personal best 458 kills to go with 74 blocks and 111 digs. Junior outside hitter Katie Vipperman also posted a career high with 37 aces and 383 digs, and she led the team with a .950 serve reception percentage. Junior outside hitter Jessi Weaver also recorded 28 kills, 10 aces, and 13 digs in her first season on the team.
Sophomore outside hitter Tiffany Milburn played a key role in the back row success of the Lady Cougars as she registered 615 digs and 821 serve reception attempts. She posted the second-highest single-season serve attempt total in school history with 944 with 72 aces. Sophomore outside hitter Rachael Stevens also tallied 379 kills, 111 blocks, and 73 digs, and she was second on the team with 172 assists.
The three freshmen on the team also saw action that will give them much needed experience for the future. Outside hitter Lindsey Anderson posted 68 kills and 28 blocks, while setter Bryee Hawkins handed out 86 assists to go with 66 digs. Defensive specialist Anyssa Incerpi also recorded four aces and 17 digs.
The loss of Stevens and Dunster will leave a large void in MVNU’s starting rotation, but Swanson and the talented group of returning players will adapt when the 2006 season rolls around.