MOUNT VERNON, Ohio -- Mount Vernon Nazarene College will be the sight of the fourteenth National Christian College Athletic Association National Volleyball Tournament when action gets under way on Thursday afternoon.
The eight-team tournament, which features the seven NCCAA region winners as well as one at-large participant, is an extremely competitive event. The combined record of the eight teams in the tournament field is 212-65 (a .765 winning percentage). Three of the eight teams have won at least 30 matches, while all but one team has 20 victories on the season.
The favorite to win this year's tournament is top-seeded Christian Heritage College. The Hawks (24-7) are from El Cajon, California, and are the West Region champions. Christian Heritage is the defending tournament champion and has recorded the most wins in school history this year. The Hawks are led by Heather McGovran (3.93 kills per game) and Jaime Shook (12.90 assists per game).
Bethel College enters the tournament as the second seed and expects to challenge Christian Heritage for the title. The Lady Pilots (34-7) are from Mishawaka, Indiana, and earned their berth by winning the North Central Region title. Behtel already has two NCCAA national titles and is looking to become only the second school to win three. The Lady Pilots are led by Hope Lawson (2.26 kills per game) and Lisa Davis (10.25 assists per game).
Western Baptist College, the recipient of the only at-large berth, is the third seed. The Warriors (22-8) hail from Salem, Oregon, and are making their second appearance in the tournament after advancing to the semifinals last year. Jen Herndon (5.33 kills per game) and Chris Neely (11.80 assists per game) have led Western Baptist to one of the best seasons in school history.
MVNC, the host school, is making its eighth consecutive appearance in the tournament and earned its berth by winning the East Region title. The Lady Cougars (37-6) are looking for that elusive first national title and hope that it will come on their home court this year. MVNC is led by Tara Seiter (4.26 kills per game and 1.51 blocks per game) and Tammy Custer (3.17 kills per game).
Grace College won the Midwest Region title and is seeded fifith in the tournament. The Lady Lancers (23-11) from Winona Lake, Indiana, have advanced to the championship match of the tournament in each of the previous two seasons. Grace won the tournament in 1995 and finished as the runner-up in 1996. The Lady Lancers are led by Kate Millen (4.42 kills per game and 2.38 blocks per game) and Melissa Rants (10.69 assists per game).
Lee University earned the sixth seed in the tournament and is the South Region champion. The Lady Flames (27-9) are from Cleveland, Tennessee, and are making their sixth appearance in the tournament. Lee has never advanced past the semifinals, and the team lost to Christian Heritage in the semifinals last year. Katrina Chatfield (3.44 kills per game and 1.50 blocks per game) and Corrie Crumpler (10.30 assists per game) lead the Lady Flames.
Bartlesville Wesleyan College won the Central Region title and is the seventh seed. The Lady Eagles (31-6) hail from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and are making their second appearance in the tournament after qualifying in 1994 and falling in the quarterfinals. Bartlesville Wesleyan is led by Holly VanSchuyver (10.24 assists per game) and Tracie Collins (4.26 digs per game).
Oakland City University rounds out the tournament field and is the Mideast Region champion. The Lady Oaks (14-11) from Oakland City, Indiana, are making their inaugral appearance in the tournament. Oakland City is led by Kristi Hart (9.55 assists per game) and Syreeta Willis (4.39 digs per game).
The tournament field is divided into two pools of four teams. Each team will play one pool play match on Thursday and two pool play matches on Friday. At the conclusion of pool play, the teams will be re-seeded for the single elimination portion of the tournament that begins Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. On Saturday, the semifinals will be played at noon and the championship match will take place at 3:00 p.m.
Tournament Seedings with Records #1 Christian Heritage (CA) College 24-7 #2 Bethel (IN) College 34-7 #3 Western Baptist (OR) College 22-8 #4 Mount Vernon Nazarene (OH) College 37-6 #5 Grace (IN) College 23-11 #6 Lee (TN) University 27-9 #7 Bartlesville Wesleyan (OK) College 31-6 #8 Oakland City (IN) University 14-11