In the decade of the 1990s, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's volleyball program has compiled an overall record of 298-95 (.758 winning percentage) to earn the reputation as one of the premier NAIA programs in the Great Lakes Region. Even more impressive is the fact that the Lady Cougars have posted a 91-8 mark (.919) at home during that span.
Going into the 1998 season, MVNC does not want to rest on the tradition that it has established. Instead, the Lady Cougars would like to use it as a foundation upon which to build. The team returns five starters and eight of the top nine players from last year's squad that posted a 42-12 overall mark, the second-most wins in school history. Head coach Paul Swanson has also brought in one of the program's best recruiting classes.
"This team has great potential in skill, personality, and spiritual maturity," said Swanson. "However, potential means nothing without hard work and good team chemistry. I do not want potential to be just a label for this team. We need to work towards that potential and try to overachieve."
Senior middle hitter Tara Seiter headlines the list of returning players. Seiter was an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in 1997, and she was also selected as the Mid-Ohio Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season. She holds numerous MVNC records and is already the Lady Cougars' career leader in kills and blocks.
Joining Seiter at the middle hitter position will be junior Jessica Huffaker, sophomore Scarlett Habrun, and freshman Amanda Schumm. Huffaker and Habrun were second and third on the team in blocks last season, while Schumm was a Second Team All-Ohioan at two-time state champion Parkway High School.
Juniors Rachel Widener and Amber Rice, along with sophomore Amy Shearrow and freshmen Darcee Hoberg and Deanna Stayman, will see plenty of action at the outside hitter position. Widener was selected to the MOC Second Team in 1997, Rice received Honorable Mention, and Shearrow was a member of the MOC All-Freshmen Team. Hoberg was a First Team All-Ohioan at River View High School, while Stayman was an All-Mason Dixon Christian Conference selection at Shalom Christian Academy.
"We have a lot of good hitters on this team," said Swanson. "They are very versatile and can play together in different combinations. We should be able to attack the ball as well as any team that we play this season."
Competition for playing time at the setter position should be fierce with senior Mandy Hendrickx, junior Becky Jefferys, and freshman Andrea Rudd all vying for action. Hendrickx and Jefferys each played in 167 games last season, while Rudd was a Third Team All-Ohioan and four-year starter at Wilmington High School.
"I have a lot of confidence in all three setters," said Swanson. "Mandy and Becky each have plenty of collegiate experience, and Andrea brings a lot of talent to the position. We will have the option of using one or two setters in each game depending on what situations arise."
MVNC's schedule should prove to be a challenging one. The Lady Cougars will compete for the inuagural American Mideast Conference title. (The AMC is the new name for the MOC due to the addition of Geneva College and St. Vincent College from Pennsylvania.) MVNC has finished either first or second in the conference for the past six years.
Besides their conference schedule, the Lady Cougars will travel to several tournaments. MVNC will look to claim their third straight Kenyon College Invitational title during the first weekend in September. The team will also compete at the King (TN) College Invitational and the University of Michigan-Dearborn Invitational, two large regional tournaments in the Mid-South and Great Lakes regions respectively. The Lady Cougars will also host the third-annual Wazie Invitational the last weekend of September.
This rugged schedule should prepare MVNC for its postseason tournaments. The Lady Cougars will take part in the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Tournament at Malone College. The team will also look to qualify for the AMC Tournament (at Walsh University), the NAIA Great Lakes Region Tournament (at Michigan-Dearborn), and the NCCAA National Tournament (at Bethel College in Indiana).
"Our primary goal is to win the conference title," said Swanson. "We also have our sights set on the NCCAA region title and a berth in the NCCAA National Tournament. In addition, we would like to qualify for the NAIA Great Lakes Region Tournament and have the opportunity to possibly advance to the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in school history."
"I am excited about the possibilities that the season has for this team," Swanson added. "The talent is there as we have twelve good players with good abilities. The challenge will be to see how it all comes together and how hard the team works together to achieve our common goals."
MVNC will open the 1998 season on Saturday, August 29, at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio. The Lady Cougars will face Daemen (NY) College at 1:00 p.m. and Urbana University at 4:00 p.m. in non-conference matches.