NewsMVNU Volleyball - A Stevens Family Reunion
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Sports and families have always gone hand in hand with kids growing up playing with their brothers and sisters and then families coming together to watch other family members play at the high school and college level.
For cousins Amanda and Rachael Stevens, playing volleyball has always meant playing on the same team with each other. From an early age, they began playing together and that continued from elementary school on to their days leading Centerburg High School to back-to-back state runner-up finishes. Now, the pair is in their second year together on the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s volleyball team.
Amanda, a senior outside hitter from Mount Vernon, is in the midst of wrapping up a stellar four-year career for the Lady Cougars. She currently ranks fifth in school history in career kills (1,744) and second in career digs (2,269), and she was an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American and a National Christian College Athletic Association First Team All-American last year. Meanwhile, Rachael, a sophomore outside hitter from Centerburg, is also a two-year starter for MVNU.
When asked what it is like to play with her cousin, Rachael responded: "The better question would be what would it would be like playing without Amanda. We have played volleyball together our whole lives, and she’s just one of those players that I am glad is on my side of the court.” "It’s so much fun to be able to play with Rachael again,” Amanda added. "We’ve grown up playing together since we were a couple years old, and it’s been great to grow and mature with her in volleyball through elementary, high school, and now college.”
Ironically, both girls’ mothers also played volleyball at MVNU as the pair becomes the first Lady Cougars to be second-generation players in the program. Rachael’s mom, Kathy (Bailey) Stevens, who teaches physical education and coaches at Centerburg, was a four-sport standout in volleyball, basketball, tennis, and track from 1976-1979 and was inducted into the Cougar Wall of Fame in 1999. Meanwhile, Amanda’s mom, Bev (Thornton) Stevens, who is the children’s pastor at Mount Vernon First Church of the Nazarene, also played volleyball, basketball, and tennis during her time at MVNU from 1979-1983. Kathy and Bev married twin brothers, Denny and Dan Stevens respectively, who both graduated from MVNU and played basketball for the Cougars.
Between watching Amanda and Rachael play, attending Ohio State University matches where Amanda’s younger sister, Ami, is a starter on the volleyball team, and attending Centerburg High School matches where Kathy is a coach and Amanda’s youngest sister, Alisha, is a player, the Stevens families estimate that they go to about 10 volleyball matches a week during the season. "The matches are like a family reunion,” said Kathy. "Many times due to coaching or our jobs, one of us can’t make it to a match. We are on the phone constantly during the games giving the people left behind the score and number of games won.”
MVNU head coach Paul Swanson has played a key role in the development of both Amanda and Rachael. Amanda began attending his summer volleyball camp in the third grade, and Swanson has also worked with the Centerburg High School team for many years in the summer.
"In Amanda’s case, this is as close as I will ever come to coaching a daughter,” said Swanson, who has three sons. "I have known her and her family for a long time, and it has been great to have her be a part of our program the past four years.”
"Rachael also comes from a great heritage,” Swanson added. "Being the daughter of a coach, she knows what it takes to get the job done. She works hard and loves being a part of the team, and she does a good job of getting the most out of her abilities.”
With Amanda’s college career coming to an end this fall, the days of the Stevens cousins playing on the same team are drawing to a close. However, with both Amanda and Rachael looking forward to weddings in 2006, there could some day be a third generation of family members playing together for the Lady Cougars.